Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs an education overhaul bill...

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs an education overhaul bill into law on March 8, 2023, at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Four Arkansas residents filed a lawsuit on Friday, June 7, 2024, challenging the school voucher program created by the bill, saying it violates the state constitution's protections for educational funding. Credit: AP/Andrew DeMillo

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Four Arkansas residents have filed a lawsuit challenging a school voucher program created by an education overhaul signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders last year, saying it violates the state constitution's protections for educational funding.

The suit filed in state court late Friday seeks to halt the Arkansas Children's Freedom Account Program, which was created under the new law, known as the LEARNS Act. The voucher program, which is being phased in, pays for private- and home-schooling costs equal to 90% of the state’s per-student funding for public schools.

Arkansas lawmakers set aside $97 million in funding for the program for the upcoming year, with up to 14,000 students expected to participate. The lawsuit claims the program violates Arkansas' constitution by diverting tax money intended to help public schools.

“The LEARNS Act represents a radical and unconstitutional departure from a public school system that has endured since the establishment of the state of Arkansas,” the lawsuit said.

It added that the act would drain "valuable and necessary" resources from the public school system and “create a separate and unequal dual school system that discriminates between children based on economic, racial and physical characteristics and capabilities.”

The voucher program was part of a massive education bill that also included increases in minimum teacher salaries and restrictions on how certain topics, such as gender identity, are taught in the classroom.

A spokesperson for Sanders did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The Arkansas Supreme Court in October rejected a challenge to the LEARNS Act that questioned the Legislature’s procedural vote that allowed it to take effect immediately.

“We look forward to successfully defending the LEARNS Act in court as we have done before," Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a statement.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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