Wednesday, March 4, 2009

House Approves New Protections for Teachers

Oklahoma educators could not be forced to listen to political propaganda during “professional days” or other official school activities under legislation approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives today.

House Bill 2161, by state Rep. Sally Kern, makes it illegal to distribute material at professional meetings “for the purpose of influencing the results of an election for state or local office or a ballot measure or for the purpose of soliciting funds for or against a candidate for state or local office or a ballot measure.”

The bill also states that school district officials and employee organizations are not allowed to promote a candidate for office “at an in-service or other similar teacher meeting.”

“Teachers need professional development days to hone job skills and develop new classroom strategies,” said Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican and former teacher. “They don’t need that time consumed with political addresses or propaganda. Our schools should be centers of learning, not rally organizers for politicians.”

In recent years, she noted some schools have used professional days to advocate for ballot initiatives advanced by special interest groups.

“Oklahoma’s teachers can decide for themselves how they want to vote,” Kern said. “They don’t need to waste school time on political activities.”

House Bill 2161 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a bipartisan 66-30 vote. It now proceeds to the floor of the state Senate.

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