Proposed Arizona partisan instruction law, based on sectarian prohibition law

Testimony was heard yesterday by the Arizona Legislature’s Government Reform Committee on the proposed piece of legislation that prohibits partisan instruction in K-12 publically funded classrooms. Senator Lori Klein’s proposed legislation, SB 1202, is based on the current Arizona law, A.R.S. 15-535, that prohibits sectarian instruction in publically funded schools.

At almost the exact same time as Gabriela Saucedo Mercer was testifying in front of the Government Reform Committee of the Arizona State Legislature on behalf of a bill introduced by Senator Lori Klein, which would prohibit partisan education in publicly funded schools, TUSD students were sent an invitation by their teacher Steve Bracamonte:

From: Bracamonte, Steve Steve.Bracamonte@tusd1.org
Date: Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 8:50 AM
Subject: FW: Countdown to Campaign Kickoff 2012
To:

Only 5 More Days until
A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE FOR GRIJALVA PRESENT

2012 CAMPAIGN KICKOFF
Live Music by Los Gallegos

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2012
5:30 PM – 8:30 PM

EL CASINO BALLROOM
437 EAST 26TH STREET
TUCSON, AZ 85713

CLICK HERE TO RSVP TODAY

Join us, and bring your friends and family for a night of FUN, FOOD and FRIENDSHIP in celebration of Raúl Grijalva’s ongoing service to US and our communities.

We can’t kick off Raul’s re-election without you!!

One of our goals this election year is to re-energize and grow our Progressive Democrat base here in Arizona. Through your help and promotion of this event and Raúl’s campaign, you can be instrumental in helping us achieve that goal.

We must turn back these Democrats In Name Only and Tea Party sympathizers aimed at serving corporate interests against the people’s champion.

The community and our opponents will be watching. Let’s be loud and clear and send them an unmistakable message. We need your presence to show the depth and strength of Raúl’s support as we launch our next campaign.

In yesterday’s hearing Senator Klein, who has devoted much of her legislative work to children’s issues and school reform, explained the law simply means that teachers cannot promote “one point of view, whether Democrat or Republican. Republicans or conservatives should not be promoting their point of view. Liberals, progressives, socialists, and Marxists should not be espousing their views in the classroom.”

Saucedo Mercer, a community activist, and Republican congressional candidate, addressed the Government Reform Committee in support of three pieces of legislation proposed by Klein. Klein’s legislation included SB 1206 which allows parents to act to close failing schools, SB 1203 which requires schools to post their curricula on their websites, and SB1202.

Senator Klein worked with Saucedo Mercer and other education activists on SB1202.

Saucedo Mercer told the committee that, “As a community leader who has been actively involved in the issues facing the public schools in Southern Arizona, I have seen firsthand the damage done to our young students by partisans who pretend to be educators.”

Senator Klein, said the legislation came as a result of complaints she has received complaints about “political indoctrination in the classroom.” Klein said SB 1202 is designed to ensure that students are given a balanced view on what they are being taught.

The measure passed out of committee on a 5-2 vote.

It is unknown how many TUSD students intend to r.s.v.p to the 2012 Grijalva campaigm kick off.

A.R.S. 15-535. Sectarian instruction prohibited

A teacher who uses sectarian or denominational books or teaches any sectarian doctrine or conducts any religious exercises in school is guilty of unprofessional conduct and his certificate shall be revoked.

SB 1202 Partisan instruction prohibited in K-12

A) A teacher in any school district or charter school is guilty of unprofessional conduct and the teacher’s certificate shall be revoked if the teacher does any of the following

1. Promotes any partisan doctrine or conducts any unipartisan exercises in school.

2. Encourages, entices or otherwise indoctrinations pupils to promote or adopt, or both, the teacher’s partisan or political viewpoints.

3. Puts public display a pupil’s support for the teacher’s political position in order to promote the teacher’s position.

B) An administrator who does not actively prevent or cease a teacher’s political activity in the classroom in a timely manner is guilty of unprofessional conduct and his certificate shall be revoked.

C) If it is found that a district’s superintendent knew about or should have known about a teacher’s violation of the unprofessional conduct out lined above, and knowingly ignored it, the district is liable for the remedies in subsection G.

D) If it is found that a district’s School Board knew about or should have known about a teacher’s violation of the unprofessional conduct out lined above, and knowingly ignored it, the district is liable for the remedies in subsection G.

E) If the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction determines that a school district or charter school has not prevented or ceased a violation of subsection A, the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction shall notify the school district or charter school that it is in violation of subsection A.

F) If the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction determines that the school district or charter school has failed to prevent or cease violations of subsection A within sixty days after a notice has been issued pursuant to this subsection, the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction may direct the department of education to withhold up to ten per cent of the monthly apportionment of state aid that would otherwise be due the school district or charter school. The department of education shall adjust the school district or charter school’s apportionment accordingly. When the state board of education or the superintendent of public instruction determines that the school district or charter school is in compliance with subsection A, the department of education shall restore the full amount of state aid payments to the school district or charter school.

G) The department of education shall pay for all expenses of a hearing conducted pursuant to this section.

Mr. Bracamonte said that he regretted his action, and the it was inappropriate. He said that he was going to issue an apology to his students. His defense for his action was that he “didn’t even read the whole email before sending it out” to his students. When asked if he should have read it, and does he often send out emails to students before sending them out with calls-to-action, he responded, “yes” and “no.” Bracamonte would not make a public statement of apology to the district and to professional teachers acknowledging that he had crossed the line and cast them in a bad light.