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Lawsuit filed challenges Arkansas LEARNS Act | Gov. Sanders refutes claims

A new order has been filed preventing Arkansas school districts from taking action based on the LEARNS Act until it actually becomes law.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Late Friday, a Pulaski County judge issued an order challenging the LEARNS Act, which is Gov. Sarah Sanders' signature education bill.

The temporary restraining order tests the nature in which the LEARNS Act was passed through the legislature, claiming that lawmakers didn't hold a separate vote on the emergency clause, which would make it take effect immediately.

The order said that school districts can not take action based on the LEARNS Act until it becomes law in the first week of August. 

Following the judge's order, Gov. Sanders released a statement refuting the legitimacy of the lawsuit, calling it "absurd." 

"This is an absurd lawsuit with zero merit and we will file an appeal immediately," Gov. Sanders said. "We are focused on making sure that every kid in Arkansas has access to a quality education, teachers have the pay raises they deserve, and parents are empowered." 

The governor went on to state that she plans to appeal the lawsuit and fight it in court. 

"We expect to be vindicated at the Supreme Court. I’m confident that the attorney general will be able to vigorously defend it," Gov. Sanders said.  

In addition, the Marvell-Elaine School District, the main defendant in the lawsuit, is restricted from paying the charter school management company chosen to run the district. 

Furthermore, the school district's decision to refuse to renew certain teachers' contracts is also not allowed until trial on June 20.

This ruling comes as local schools like the Little Rock School District (LRSD) prepared to integrate the LEARNS Act into their classrooms. 

LRSD board members met on May 18 to begin implementing the LEARNS Act into its curriculum. Some of the changes included employee pay, work hours and addressing students' preferred pronouns.

Arkansas school districts were told to implement LEARNS before July 1 or risk losing the funding used for teacher pay raises.

Attorney General Tim Griffin filed an appeal shortly after the judge's order, stating that it's in line with Arkansas law.

“The LEARNS Act provides students and parents new opportunities and better performing schools," Griffin said. "It was passed in accordance with the Arkansas Constitution, is currently the law in Arkansas and I won’t allow one erroneous decision by a circuit court judge in Little Rock to deprive the children of Arkansas of the wonderful and lawful opportunities awaiting them under the LEARNS Act." 

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