LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A decades-long court battle resulted in the Arkansas Constitution guaranteeing adequate and equitable funding for state public schools.
That process is called the Lakeview Decision. Some in the legal community said the omnibus education reform bill, set to become law, may conflict with that precedent.
Ali Noland has testified against the Arkansas LEARNS bill as it has gone through the legislative process. She is a Little Rock School Board member and a private practice lawyer who formerly worked in the Arkansas Attorney General’s office.
“This is an incredibly complex issue,” Noland said.
Noland said the Lakeview Decision could have an impact on the legality of Arkansas LEARNS.
The bill holds public schools to more rigorous standards than private ones, while introducing a school choice program to fund both.
Public schools must meet requirements for community service and provide federally-mandated services for kids with disabilities, while private schools would not face the same requirements.
“That is inequitable, in violation of Lakeview,” Noland said.
After reaching out to Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office for comment as it relates to the Lakeview decision, he expressed his support.
“I wholeheartedly support the LEARNS Act,” Griffin responded via statement.
The bill includes a severability clause, meaning some parts could remain Arkansas law even if the courts deem other elements unconstitutional. Noland said she expects this process to be long.
“Until we actually saw the bill, it became really clear at that point we were going to have a Lakeview problem,” Noland said.
The bill passed Monday afternoon after several amendments were added on the House side. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) could sign it by this week if it passes the full Senate.