The Arkansas Supreme Court last week, in a 5-2 decision, overturned a lower court’s order to pause the LEARNS Act. The decision clears the way for the Department of Education to resume implementing the governor’s signature education overhaul legislation. However, the lawsuit was returned to the lower court to continue hearing arguments about whether or not the legislature correctly passed what’s called an emergency clause, which made LEARNS become law as soon as it was signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The lawsuit argues that the emergency clause was not voted on correctly, and so LEARNS should not become law until Aug. 1. A hearing is scheduled for June 20.
“From the beginning this lawsuit has been a selfish and disingenuous antic to thwart the empowerment of parents, give teachers much deserved salary increases and benefits, and keep our children from being able to thrive. Nothing substantive is being challenged; rather, this lawsuit is simply an exploitation of our courts to delay LEARNS, the largest investment in Arkansas’s public education, ever,” said Laurie Lee, chairman of The Reform Alliance. “The actors behind this lawsuit are attempting to mislead every parent of every K-12 student in our state, hindering every school, every teacher and every community with mere political grandstanding. The winners in today’s court decision are our children, our families and teachers who have regained their ability to move forward with critical decisions for our state’s future,” said Lee. Volunteer groups of educators, parents and community members working with ADE to develop rules governing different parts of the expansive LEARNS Act are now free to resume meetings, and they are expected to announce an application process for the educational freedom account pro-gram as soon as this month. Meanwhile, planning and implementation of other elements of LEARNS, including hiring of state-wide literacy coaches, benefit pro-grams for new or future teachers, career readiness initiatives and more can move forward as well. “We are excited about all the benefits of the LEARNS Act and the broader LEARNS initiative that it’s a part of, and we look forward to educating parents about everything it provides for them, their families, and our communities,” said Lee. The Reform Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring every Arkansas student has equal access to a quality education. We understand that each child has individual needs, so we strive to raise public awareness of all educational options for every family. Our team is committed to assisting Arkansas families with finding the best option for their child. In addition, we are proud to partner with the Arkansas Department of Education to pro-mote and assist in the implementation of the Succeed Scholarship Program.