LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A group hoping to put a referendum on the Arkansas LEARNS Act before voters had its proposal rejected by the attorney general Monday.
A decision from Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office said the proposed referendum’s ballot title was insufficient for informing voters. The opinion said the group is encouraged to resubmit a referendum measure that gives a clear picture of what a “for” or “against” vote will accomplish.
“I have determined that the popular name and ballot title failed to explain the impact of a vote for or against the measure and failed to adequately summarize the LEARNS Act,” Griffin said. “Therefore, the proposal failed to meet legal standards and cannot be certified.”
The AG’s office said it found problems with language within the referendum, including its summaries. The ruling acknowledged that it can be difficult to summarize a 145-page act.
The proposal had been submitted by Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Teachers. Executive director Steve Grappe said the group was very disappointed in the attorney general’s opinion and the attorney general was “making this political.”
“We believe the Attorney General is the Attorney for the people. In this process, it has felt like he has acted more as the Attorney for the Governor’s Office,” Grappe said. “We have met disorganization and resistance from the beginning of the process.”
CAPES believes Arkansas LEARNS, signed into law by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on March 8, will harm public education. The group is planning a series of protest rallies across the state on April 27.
Arkansas LEARNS was a cornerstone of Sander’s campaign and legislative agenda. It broadens school choice and changes teachers’ pay scales, including a significant increase in starting salaries.