Arizona teachers who talk politics will be fired if new bill passes

Thousands march west on Washington toward the Capitol

By: ,

December 19, 2018

A state lawmaker wants to send teachers a message: If they bring politics into the classroom, they’re risking their jobs.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, has introduced the first education bill of the 2019 legislative session.House Bill 2002 would direct the State Board of Education to devise a code of ethics for educators that would include provisions forbidding the spread of political and religious messages in public district and charter schools.

The ethics code would explicitly ban teachers from endorsing political candidates, legislation or judicial action in the classroom.

It could also increase law enforcement and military recruiter access to students, and it would restrict teachers from teaching “controversial issues” or blaming one racial group of students for the “suffering or inequities” of another racial group. 

Leading educators say the bill is a distraction from the conversation over school funding, coming after this year’s historic teacher walkout and the #RedForEd movement.

Finchem, however, said the bill is “bigger” than #RedForEd and that the proposal comes from conversations with parents “outraged” by political conversations taking place during class time.

What’s in the legislation?

HB 2002 would require a new code of ethics that includes several specific provisions forbidding teachers from:

  • Endorsing, supporting or opposing any candidate or elected or appointed official.
  • Introducing “controversial issues” in class not related to the course being taught. The bill defines “controversial issues” as political platform issues, which could include topics like immigration, abortion, guns and even taxes.
  • Endorsing, supporting or engaging in activity hampering or impeding a military recruiter’s access to a school.
  • Endorsing, supporting or engaging in activity hampering or impeding law enforcement activity.
  • Advocating for one side of a controversial issue. The code would require teachers to provide students with material educating them on “both sides” of the issue, teaching in a nonpartisan way.
  • Segregating students “according to race” or blaming one race of students “as being responsible for the suffering or inequities experienced by another racial group of students.”

Under the proposal, the State Board would develop penalties for violating the code. Punishment would include termination, according to the bill. It would also require a three-hour annual ethics training for all certified teachers.

The bill states that the ethics code would apply to all “certificated” teachers in the state. Not all public school teachers in Arizona are certified: State law doesn’t require charter school teachers to be certified.

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