“Mississippi is being governed like a third world country.” We have heard that comment from more than one of our members in the last week. House Bill 449 will reinforce that sentiment among many of you.
HB 449, authored by House Education chairman John Moore of Rankin County, would make it a criminal offense for teachers to contact their legislators during the work day (pretty much the only time that legislators are at the Capitol) and for citizens to advocate for an issue they support on any school property. See a complete analysis of HB 449 here.
The nationally adopted professional standards to which education leaders adhere calls for them to be advocates for the students they serve, to monitor and influence policy and legislation that affects the children in their classrooms. Chairman Moore’s bill seeks to criminalize that activity with a $10,000 fine attached to a first “offense” and a $10,000 fine and loss of the educator’s license attached to the second. It is indefensible.
Educators, it is important that you not be intimidated by this sort of political maneuver. Parents and public education supporters, it is imperative that we speak up on behalf of the teachers who have committed their careers to educating and advocating for our children.
Ask your legislators if they support this move to silence the very people whose input they should seek on legislation that governs our classrooms. They will be at home over the weekend. You can find contact information for the legislators who represent your school district here.
Please also ask House Speaker Philip Gunn, who appointed Rep. Moore to chair the committee that oversees education legislation, if this is representative of the type of policy that he supports. Speaker’s Capitol Office: 601.359.3300 Personal: 601.924.8438
Two education bills were passed by the House this week, one to separate the state and federal accountability systems and change the name of the Common Core State Standards to the Mississippi College and Career Ready Standards (it did not change the standards themselves), and the other to mandate that local school boards adopt the curriculum for their school districts (this is already state policy). We will continue to update you on important bills – good and bad – as they get traction or are taken up in committee. There are plenty of bills about which we should be concerned, among them bills to reduce school funding, to allow vouchers for private schools, and more.
Folks, HB 449 is just one more step in a long history of efforts to keep educators from having significant input into education legislation. Did you know that a statute passed years ago prevents retired educators and other state employees from drawing their retirement while serving in the Legislature? This is a primary reason that we have so few former educators serving in that capacity – a pretty clever way for incumbent legislators to protect their seats from retired educators and retired state employees who could be strong candidates for the Legislature.
Many of our legislators are strong supporters of public schools and are eager to have input from educators. Others consistently support legislation that is detrimental to public school students and their schools. It will be important for you to know who falls into each of those categories going into the 2015 Election. The vote reports that we will post in the coming weeks will be good indicators.