LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Attorney General Tim Griffin has officially filed an appeal to the decision that is delaying the implementation of the Arkansas LEARNS Act.
The appeal was filed Monday morning in Pulaski County Circuit Court and asks that the matter now go in front of the Arkansas Supreme Court.
In a statement, Griffin expressed his confidence in the strength of the appeal.
“I have appealed the Pulaski County Circuit Court’s ruling in the LEARNS Act case to the Arkansas Supreme Court, am confident in the strength of our arguments and will continue to defend the Act with vigor and enthusiasm,” he said.
Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Herbert Wright ruled on Friday, June 30, that the emergency clause added to the education omnibus bill did not receive its own separate vote, as required by the Arkansas Constitution.
Attorneys representing the state said Arkansas lawmakers were following the standard procedure in the General Assembly, with the House parliamentarian saying the emergency clause’s passage was automatic since the Act itself passed with 2/3 support.
The emergency clause would have allowed the Arkansas LEARNS Act to immediately take effect in the state. Wright’s decision pushed the effective start of the new law to Aug. 1.
Supporters of the new law contend that delaying its implementation is making it harder for schools to move forward with plans under the future rules. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who had seen the LEARNS Act as a cornerstone victory in her first six months in office, called the lawsuit delay it “absurd.”
“This politically motivated lawsuit is absurd and those responsible should be ashamed of themselves for trying to hurt our kids’ futures,” Sanders said after the Friday ruling. “We will continue to implement LEARNS raising teacher pay, empowering parents, and expanding literacy programs. The Attorney General will immediately appeal this ruling.”
The group that originally brought the lawsuit challenging timeline of implementing the law included the organization Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Student (CAPES) as well as a number of parents and teachers from the Marvell-Elaine School District, which had planned to turn over district operations to the Friendship Education Foundation.
Attorney Ali Noland, who represented those opposed to the immediate start of the law, said Friday that the case wasn’t complicated and that changes in the Marvell-Elaine district were being attempted without the proper authority.
“Judge Wright correctly ruled today that the LEARNS Act is not yet law, and the State Board of Education lacked authority to enter into the ‘transformation contract’ handing over management of the Marvell-Elaine School District to a charter-school management company and terminating the district’s teachers and staff,” Noland said.
The appeal was filed just minutes after Sanders appointed former U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland to Arkansas Supreme Court to fill the seat on the bench vacated by the passing of Justice Robin Wynne last month.
With the appointment of Hiland, who had most recently served as the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, the state Supreme Court will see its first-ever conservative majority.