What Teachers CAN do for Initiative 42

Can you believe the lengths to which some politicians will go to deny our children adequate education funding?

Apparently, state leaders weren’t satisfied with tampering with the ballot title and the “official” state fiscal analysis – or with manipulating the official ballot to gain an advantage in the election – or with railroading through the Legislature an alternative amendment they now officially oppose – or with using state resources to campaign against a citizen-led initiative – or with using threats and intimidation in an effort to frighten state workers into voting against better funding for their kids’ public schools – or with refusing to let the taxpayers who pay their salaries see the emails and other correspondence they’ve sent about Initiative 42 on our time and our dime.

Now they are threatening teachers and school districts. (What’s new, right?)

Here’s the truth they don’t want you to know…

It is perfectly LEGAL for educators to campaign for Initiative 42, as long as they do it on their own time and use their own resources.

• YES, you can tell your family and friends why you need better funding for your schools. (The Mississippi Educator Code of Ethics you signed actually obligates you to advocate for your students.)

• YES, you can ask people to vote for Initiative 42, while on personal time, using any of the following means:

    • In private or public conversations

    • On social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)

    • At church or other public or private venues

    • At public events, such as forums, town halls, etc

    • Distributing Initiative 42 materials in public or private venues

    • Holding Initiative 42 signs outside polling places on election day (before or after school hours)

• YES, you can hand out sample ballots showing people how to vote in favor of Initiative 42. (Get a marked sample ballot here. Do not use school time or resources to copy or distribute marked sample ballots; The Parents’ Campaign or 42 for Better Schools can provide you copies.)

• YES, you can hold forums at your school educating people about Initiative 42. (Do not hold these forums during school hours.) This is appropriate, just as those opposing Initiative 42 can hold such forums educating people about 42 A.

• YES, you can put an Initiative 42 sticker on your car and park in it the school parking lot. (Your district may not prohibit this. Prohibiting you from having a sticker on your car would be a violation of your free speech and a violation of the Educators’ Code of Ethics. School employees are also allowed to have other campaign stickers on their cars.)

• YES, you can use school resources and reproduction equipment to produce materials to educate the public about Initiative 42, as long as the materials produced do not attempt to persuade the public to take a particular position. (Get an unmarked sample ballot here. Get facts about Initiative 42 here.)

Here’s what public school and other state employees CANNOT do:

• State employees with the power to hire or fire other employees may not coerce employees to vote one way or another on a political issue (yes, I know this is exactly what state legislative leaders are urging state agency heads to do, but it’s illegal.)

• State employees cannot take an active part in any election campaign during work hours, but they CAN have conversations with colleagues, share opinions, discuss issues and candidates, etc., during work hours. That is the beauty of living in a democracy. State officials cannot control what you think or say, try as they might.

The shameful tactics of threats, intimidation, and coercion used by state leaders to influence this election fly in the face of the very principles on which our country was founded.

If you would like to receive our emails at a personal email address, or if you would like to receive text messages about urgent issues on your personal cell phone, reply to this email and send us your contact information. Note: we send text messages infrequently and only in urgent situations.

Great things are happening with Initiative 42 and momentum is swinging our way! College students are getting involved, refusing to be bullied by the powers that be and stepping up in support of Initiative 42. You can help by sharing our marked sample ballot with friends and family, retweeting our tweets (find us on Twitter @parentscampaign), and sharing our Facebook posts.

Do not be intimidated by those who want to silence you so they can keep their power intact and our public schools on the ropes. This is our chance to turn the tide in favor of Mississippi children. Let’s double down and get this done for our kids!

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