Lawmaker to take bid to ban politics in classroom to ballot

One of many Red for Ed signs sits at the Arizona Capitol on April 26, 2018, when teachers walked out of their classrooms to seek higher pay. Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, is now working with a group to put a measure on the 2020 ballot to block educators from engaging in classroom political advocacy. / Photo by Carmen Forman / Arizona Capitol Times

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services via Arizona Capitol Times

Unable to get even a hearing on his plan, Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, is now working with parents and some teachers to put a measure on the 2020 ballot to block educators from engaging in classroom political advocacy.

The initiative filed with the Secretary of State’s Office would require the state Board of Education to adopt a “classroom code of conduct.”

In its basic form, the measure would prohibit teachers and teaching assistants in public schools from a whole host of activities. These range from endorsing or opposing candidates and legislation to introducing any “partial political issue that is not germane to the topic of the course or academic subject being taught.”

The code would have teeth.

A first offense carries a warning that remains in the employment file for a year; a second violation requires a suspension of someone’s teaching certificate for up to 30 days.

And there also are provisions that allow not only the attorney general and county attorney to file complaints and seek enforcement, including going to court, but also would give that right to any resident of the school district where the violation occurred.

The initiative largely mirrors HB 2002 that Finchem filed even before the legislative session began in January.

But House Speaker Rusty Bowers did not even assign the measure to a committee for a hearing. 

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