Educators argue House bill would silence their voices - - Jackson, MS

Educators argue House bill would silence their voices

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Educators are jumping in on a House bill they worry will silence their voices. Executive Director of the Mississippi Professional Educators, Kelly Riley, says they've been flooded with feedback on House Bill 449.

"The common phrase or terms seems to be sickening and infuriating," said Riley.

House Bill 449 would ban school employees from engaging in political activity on school time.

"It's raised a lot of red flags and what if's and educators have been very disheartened by this," Riley said. "They see it as a slap in their face."

House Education chairman and bill author Rep. John Moore(R) said he still wants input from educators. He just doesn't think that lobbying should happen during school hours.

"The main thrust is to stop the use of taxpayer assets for political purposes," described Moore.

Moore argues the issue isn't about teachers in the classroom.

Instead, it's the administration that's being targeted. He points to teachers collecting signatures in the petition drive for Initiative 42, as the latest example.

"I have had some tell me personally that they did not want to do it but they almost felt threatened," said Moore.

The bill's proposed penalty for political involvement on school time is a $10,000 fine. Moore says that will be lowered if it makes it through his committee.

"Just because they are a teacher or a principal or a superintendent or a local school board member, that should not strip them of their democratic rights to express their opinions," explained Kelly Riley.

The Mississippi Association of Educators has an e-mail outline for educators wishing to voice their concern. It can be found at the MAE Website

There have been questions about whether this proposal would apply to teachers contacting lawmakers during the work day. Chairman Moore says that is a gray area. He has problems with that if it's to lobby an issue rather than just schedule an appointment.

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