Teacher encourages students to write to their Congressmen. A bill passed by the Senate would make this illegal.

Let’s imagine a high school social studies class in which the topic of the day is school safety—a topic that directly affects the students on a daily basis. The teacher’s lesson plan is designed to make sure that the students understand the legal parameters of the discussion.  The class has a lively discussion.  Some of the students wonder why we don’t have stronger laws about gun control.  Others are worried about laws like that infringing on their right to protect their own safety by owning a gun.  The teacher’s job is to make sure that the students know and understand where the laws come from and how they might be amended. 

In the last five minutes of class, the teacher compliments the students on the respectful conversation they have had about a controversial issue.  She then makes the following statement:

“You know you can have a voice in the discussion of this issue. If you think we need changes to our laws, you can contact your representatives in the state legislature or the U.S. Congress.  Active and involved citizens are good citizens. So I encourage you to let your voices and your opinions be heard.  Here is a list of names and addresses for the representatives that serve our community.”

According to a bill passed by the Texas Senate, the teacher has just violated the law by engaging in “electioneering.”  SB 1569 would make it illegal for an “employee” of a school district to use “public funds or resources” to “facilitate any activity by a student….for advocacy communications to an elected officer or employee of an elected officer for or against a matter for which the officer may vote or take an official action.”

The teacher is on the job, being paid by the district, and therefore, she is using “public funds or resources” to facilitate this “advocacy communication.”  So according to a pending piece of legislation, she is not carrying out her civic, and professional responsibility—she’s engaged in a nefarious, illegal act of electioneering.

SB 1569 is an abomination.

It’s unnecessary.  We already have laws that prohibit the use of public funds and resources for electioneering. 

It’s discriminatory.  It applies to employees of public schools, but not to employees of cities, counties, state agencies, or universities. What’s that about?

It’s anti-public education.  Obviously.  That’s the intent.  

It’s contrary to the TEKS: “Citizenship. The student understands the importance of voluntary individual participation in the U.S. constitutional republic.”  19 T.A.C. 113.44(c)(15).

Let’s hope this thing does not see the light of day in the House.

Now remember: if you advocate about this issue, be sure to do so on your own time, using your own resources.  As mentioned above, electioneering is already a violation of law.


Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!