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Southern Arizona state lawmaker attempts to limit politics in the classroom

Posted at 8:09 AM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 19:54:29-04

A year ago, thousands of teachers marched to the capitol supporting Red for Ed.

Substitute teacher Jennifer Hill was not one of them. Hill did not agree with teachers subjecting students to their advocacy. In April 2018, she told ABC15, "They've been involving children. They've been wearing Red for Ed t-shirts on campus. I don't support bringing the children into the fold."

Hill lost her job. State Representative Mark Finchem, (R) Oro Valley, took issue with that.

"If things are all hunky dory in school, why does somebody have to be let go for their own protection?" Representative Finchem asked. He then answered, "because she had a political view that was in contrast to the prevailing political view of her peers."

Finchem tried and failed to get a bill, imposing strict penalties on teachers and schools which allow political advocacy in class, through the legislature.

Now he is advising a political action group, YES for a classroom code of ethics, as it begins the process of obtaining enough signatures to get a similar measure on the ballot in 2020.

In Finchem's view, political advocacy has no place in the classroom.

"Teachers, stick to your lane," he says, "teach narrowly to the topics."

Critics called his bill--and now the proposed ballot initiative--an attack on teachers and parents who fought for better pay and more resources in the classroom. Finchem says it's bigger than that.

"If a teacher claimed in class, 'Donald Trump is the greatest president ever,' that would be wrong. You don't have the right to impose your political opinion on the students who you are supposed to be helping."

Getting the Teachers Code of Ethics on the 2020 ballot will take a herculean effort. More than a quarter-million voter signatures are needed.