Teachers Criticized Trump, Now Proposed Bill Wants to Fire Educators Who Talk Politics, Religion

Teachers in Arizona could lose their job for voicing their political, religious or ideological opinions in the classroom if a bill proposed for the 2019 session passes.

Introduced by Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem, the bill, HB 2002, was pre-filed for the first regular session of the state legislature. If passed, the bill would require the state board of education and the superintendent of the public institution to clearly communicate and enforce rules preventing teachers from advocating for political, ideological or religious positions in classrooms.

The bill highlighted nine behaviors that a school should prohibit teachers from engaging in, identified as:

  • Endorsing, supporting or opposing candidates, nominees, elected or appointed officials for public office at the local, state and federal levels
  • Endorsing, supporting or opposing any pending, proposed or decided court case or judicial action at the local, state and federal levels
  • Endorsing, supporting or opposing any pending proposed or enacted legislation, rule or regulation at the local, state and federal levels
  • Endorsing, supporting or opposing any pending, proposed or executed executive action by the executive branch agency at the local, state and federal levels
  • Introducing in the classroom a controversial issue that is not relevant to the course being taught
  • Endorsing, supporting or engaging in any activity that hampers or impedes the lawful access of military recruiters to the campus
  • Endorsing, supporting or engaging in any activity that hampers or impedes the actions of local, state and federal law enforcement
  • Advocating in a partisan manner for any side of controversial issues
  • Segregating students according to race or singling out one racial group of students as being responsible for the suffering or inequities of another racial group of students

If a teacher discusses controversial issues, the teacher must provide students with resources from both sides in a nonpartisan and fair-minded manner. The teacher can offer students their opinion, but students must be made aware that they can disagree with the teacher without being penalized.

Controversial issues were defined in the bill as an issue that is a point in a political party platform at either the local state or federal level.

Rules would be applicable to all certified teachers at public schools and failure to follow the rules could result in termination of employment.

"Parents and taxpayers have a right to expect that taxpayer resources will be spent on education, not political or ideological indoctrination," the bill said.

arizona teachers trump fired politics religion
An Arizona teacher holds up a sign in front of the State Capitol during a #REDforED rally in Phoenix, on April 26. In a pre-filing, Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem proposed a bill that would make voicing political religious or ideological opinions in the classroom a fire-able offense in Arizona. Ralph Freso/Getty Images

It argued that education in a democracy is best done when students are taught how to think and not what to think. It claimed that surveys found controversial issues were discussed in the majority of classrooms.

Finchem told The Arizona Republic that the idea for the bill came after he received a "stunning" number of calls from parents about conversations that were going on in classrooms. He claimed in one case, a parent told him that a math teacher frequently used classroom time to criticize President Donald Trump.

"If you step into a classroom with a Trump T-shirt, a Hillary T-shirt, a 'Vote No on 126' T-shirt, you're engaging in political speech in the classroom," he said. "If there's a political agenda behind it, leave it at home. Simple request."

Not everyone agreed with Finchem, however, and Marisol Garcia, vice president of the state's teachers' union, the Arizona Education Association called it a "stunt." She said it was disappointing that a legislator would choose that legislation for the beginning of the 2019 session.

While some took it as a direct hit at Red for Ed, a movement that pushed for more funding for education, Finchem said it is about far more than the public display from teachers.

Teachers Criticized Trump, Now Proposed Bill Wants to Fire Educators Who Talk Politics, Religion | U.S.