The Rule of Law & LEARNS


The Rule of Law & LEARNS

On May 26, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herbert Wright issued a temporary restraining order preventing Act 237 of 2023, the Arkansas LEARNS Act, from taking effect until a hearing on June 20. The judge ruled that state legislators did not properly pass an emergency clause allowing the act to take effect immediately.

Wright’s ruling came in a lawsuit seeking to stop the state from using the LEARNS Act to permit the takeover of the troubled Marvell-Elaine School District by a charter school nonprofit.

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Wright cited Article 5, Section 1 in the Arkansas Constitution, which calls for a separate roll call vote to allow a bill to take immediate effect. Lawmakers failed to vote separately on first the bill and then the emergency clause. 

If it sounds like a technicality, that’s because it is, and voting once on both a bill and an emergency clause is something the Legislature has been doing for a long time. That doesn’t make the practice constitutional, however.

The Sanders’ administration has strongly denounced Wright’s ruling, and state Attorney General Tim Griffin last week filed an emergency motion asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to reverse it, accusing the lower court of putting “the entire state’s public education system in limbo” and sowing “chaos.”

The language is needlessly hyperbolic. 

The Arkansas Legislature overwhelmingly approved LEARNS. But adhering to the state Constitution and the rule of law matters.  

“Chaos” is unlikely to erupt while the courts determine whether lawmakers followed the state’s governing charter.

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