Arkansas attorney general OKs ballot language for proposed referendum to repeal the LEARNS Act

Attorney General Tim Griffin addresses the media during a news conference in Little Rock in this March 16, 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin certified ballot language for a proposed referendum to repeal the LEARNS Act, Monday.

The decision clears the way for Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students (CAPES), the group behind the repeal effort, to start gathering signatures to get their proposed referendum on the 2024 ballot.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the LEARNS Act, her education overhaul bill, into law in March.

The Attorney General’s office had rejected two prior attempts by the group, saying their proposed ballot language was insufficient and misleading. But after the group met with Griffin last month and resubmitted a more extensive 16-page ballot title that explains the omnibus education law, Griffin gave the group the go-ahead to start gathering signatures.

“The legislature has authorized the Attorney General to reject a ballot title for only one reason: if it is misleading,” Griffin said in a statement. "Because this ballot title largely cuts and pastes at great length from LEARNS, I cannot conclude that it is misleading.”

The legislation is a wide-ranging piece of legislation championed by Sanders, which includes raises for teachers, a new voucher program to allow students to use state dollars to attend a private or home school, a ban on Critical Race Theory and new literacy standards for elementary school students.

Monday’s decision was only the first hurdle the group had to clear to get their proposed referendum on the ballot. The group has until July 31 to collect about 54,522 signatures from registered voters which will have to come from voters in at least 50 different counties according to a new state law.