Tag Archives: John L. Moore

Warning Shot Fired at State Educators by Mississippi Legislature

After House Bill (HB) 449 in 2015 and HB 49 in 2016 failed to become law and silence state educators, the Mississippi Legislature may have delivered a coup de gras with the recent passage of HB 1643, Section 44.  Section 44 reads . . .

“None of the funds provided herein may be expended to make payments or transfers to the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents. Furthermore, none of the funds provided herein may be expended if any local school district expends any public funds to make payments or transfers to the Association.”

Over the years, the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents (MASS) has been a major education liaison between educators and the Mississippi Legislature.  After July 1, 2016, Section 44 may put an end to that relationship, but as grave as the loss of an association devoted to promoting and improving education may be, the gravest consequence of Section 44 may well be the silencing of educator voices across Mississippi.  By prohibiting payments from public funds to MASS and threatening to withhold state funds to any local district violating Section 44, the legislature fired a warning shot aimed at all state educators.  They sent a strong message that if any educator dares side or speak against them, as some superintendents did during the controversial and heated Initiative 42 campaign in the fall of 2015, there will be consequences to pay.

Bill author, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R–Poplarville, made it clear Section 44 of the bill is retaliation for what he called personal attacks against state officials by state school district superintendents during the Initiative 42 campaign.  He said, “When they attack people like that, they’re biting the hand that feeds them, and maybe the next time they need to think about that.”  However, the record supports the problem goes much deeper than Initiative 42.  Prior to the Initiative, House Education Chairman, John L. Moore introduced HB 449 in the 2015 legislative session that threatened to penalize educators $10,000 dollars for exercising their freedom of speech on school related issues.  He renewed his effort to silence educators in the 2016 legislative session when he introduced HB 49, which was basically a repeat of his failed 2015 bill.  The objective of both bills was to silence the voice of educators across the state who spoke in protest against state legislators who refused to honor the law and fully fund education.

Frierson said, “There’s very little trust between the leadership and school administrators and most of it goes back to the 42 campaign.”  He is right; little trust exists between state leadership and educators in general, and the vindictiveness of HB 1643, Section 44 will do nothing to build trust between the two factions.  The distrust between the two, which began long before Initiative 42, will only grow deeper as a result of such pettiness.  This rift began when state legislators repeatedly went back on their word to fully fund MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program), and refused to work and listen to state educators on education issues.  This divide escalated with Initiative 42 when legislators placed an alternative measure on the ballot, which confused the issue and made it difficult at best for the Initiative to pass.  Trust between the two deteriorated further when legislators misled state voters with threats of budget cuts to other agencies if the Initiative passed – cuts that nevertheless became a reality after the Initiative was defeated.

HB 1643, Section 44 was a stroke of political genius.  By taking a less direct route than Moore and embedding the retaliatory action against school superintendents in the appropriations bill, Frierson kept his intentions under the radar as a part of the greater bill.  However, the impact on educators will be everything Moore hoped for, if not more.  Section 44 is most likely a death blow to MASS, and due to fear of reprisals against them, it may likely usher the end of educators speaking out for fairness, integrity, and common sense on education issues.  As Frierson would say, “If it does, it does.”  After all, why should free speech stand in the way of the greater power of the state legislature?

It is ironic some of the exact things the Mississippi leadership detests most about the federal government are forced on Mississippi citizens by the state leadership.  They detest the federal government usurping the power of local government, yet Section 44 tells local school districts how to spend local dollars.  They openly despise Common Core Standards because they argue the federal government bullied schools into using the standards or risk losing federal funds.  Doesn’t Section 44 do the same when it threatens to withhold state funds from local school districts that fail to take part in the legislature’s vendetta against the superintendent’s association?  It appears the Mississippi Legislature may be as power hungry if not more so than the federal government they rail so vehemently against.

Isn’t it also ironic America’s most basic right, free speech, is the right many Mississippi legislators want to strip from state educators?  In the United States of America (Mississippi is a part of the United States), instead of reprisals against free speech, shouldn’t there be reprisals against those who advocate such?  However, retaliation against either side will not resolve this issue.  As Frierson said the issues boil down to trust, and at this time neither the legislature nor state educators trust the other to do their jobs effectively.

After the defeat of Initiative 42, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves spoke about pulling both sides together as a family.  That has not happened.  All anyone needs to do is examine such bills as HB 49 and Section 44 of HB 1643 to see educators are not regarded as family by the state legislature.  If they were family, legislators would be more inclined to listen to them, and not try to silence them.  However, maybe Mr. Reeves’ words were for show only, and what Frierson, Moore and many others in the legislature really want is for educators to prostrate themselves before them.  If so, who is next – small business owners?  Ministers?   Simply put, Section 44 is nothing less than heavy handed tyranny that should scare all Mississippians into waking up!

JL

©Jack Linton, June 4, 2016

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HB 49: The Mississippi Bill of Silence Revisited

NOTE – February 2016: I originally published this blog January 23, 2015. Luckily, Mississippi House Education Chairman, John L. Moore’s attempt to muzzle state public school educators and deny them their Constitutional right to free speech did not make it out of committee in 2015. However, in January 2016, he basically resubmitted his original bill under the title HB 49. There is very little difference in the two bills. Both HB 449 and HB 49 are written for the same purpose – to muzzle state public school educators and deny them their Constitutional right to free speech. My thinking is that Mr. Moore is hoping last year’s outcry over HB 449 has been forgotten, and that the door is open in 2016 to slip his Bill of Silence unchallenged through the Education Committee. He knows that with a super-majority Republican House and majority Senate there will be little opposition to the bill once it clears the Education Committee. He also knows the chance of Governor Phil Bryant not signing the bill into law if it gets to his desk is slim and none. WAKE UP MISSISSIPPI! THE WOLF IS AT YOUR DOOR!

The Mississippi Bill of Silence:  HB 449 or is it 49?

(First published January 23, 2015 as The Mississippi Bill of Silence:  HB 449 )

It came to my attention last night by a very agitated teacher that Mississippi House Education Chairman, John L. Moore (R), had submitted a bill intended to silence educators across the state on education issues. The good thing is that the teacher expressed her shock and disbelief after school hours, and by doing so, she was not in violation of Mr. Moore’s proposed “Bill of Silence.” To be fair, some of Mr. Moore’s bill is common sense and justifiable. It should be a violation of state law for school employees to use school time, school property or school supplies for political reasons (i.e. a teacher should not be emailing his/her legislators at 11:30 a.m. when the school day is in session). However, if that was all HB (House Bill) 449 was about, I would not be writing, but unfortunately, he did not stop there.

As you read through the bill, it becomes very clear Moore is not only concerned with what school administrators and teachers do and say politically during the school day but after the school day as well. If his bill passes, superintendents and principals will no longer be able to even mention a legislative bill, action or issue in an administrative meeting or faculty meeting without fear of being charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $10,000. If you don’t believe me, look up the bill for yourself and read through it carefully, or you can simply keep reading as I look at each section of the bill and offer my response. Either way, all educators need to be familiar with House Bill 449.

HB 449

John L. Moore – Republican — Representative — District 60

  • HB 449, Section 2a, c, d, e – Section 2 deals with prohibiting political use of school time, political coercion of school personnel, and involvement in campaigning and lobbying. School district employees cannot use school district time (regularly scheduled hours of school operation), property, equipment, supplies or personnel to produce, distribute, disseminate, circulate or communicate any material or information in support or opposition of any political party, philosophy or issue in an election that could impact the outcome. Campaigning on behalf of a specific candidate or issue or lobbying the Legislature for policy change is not permitted. In addition, school district employees cannot attempt to coerce political support from school personnel or conduct fund raising for political purposes during regularly scheduled school hours.

RESPONSE: School time, school property, school equipment and supplies as well as the directed or solicited services of school personnel SHOULD NOT be used for political purposes. Political activities SHOULD BE conducted outside the school employment day on personal time – not school time. If a school administrator, board member, teacher or other paid school employee wishes to exercise their Constitutional right of involvement in political activities, they SHOULD perform those activities on their personal time, which may include the hours before and after their work duty assignments, weekends, holidays and approved personal leave.  Nevertheless, there may be times when information of a political nature needs to be delivered to school employees during administrative meetings or faculty meetings. This is where a law such as the one proposed by Mr. Moore could be so literally interpreted that it imposes an unrealistic expectation that may lead to neglect of professional duties such as communication.

  • HB 449, Section 2b – Section 2b deals with prohibiting school employees from using their school position to influence school personnel. School employees cannot use their official position in any way to influence or attempt to influence, district personnel to support or oppose any political party, philosophy or issue in an election that could impact the outcome. School employees cannot campaign on behalf of a specific candidate or issue or lobby the Legislature for policy change. Such prohibition shall include, but not be limited to, any form of advocacy or opposition in a classroom or school setting or other school related employment relationship.

RESPONSE: School officials should not be permitted to openly influence or coerce school district personnel during regularly scheduled school hours or even after hours, but delivering information that may be politically charged to inform employees as to potential impact on their jobs should be allowed.  This would hold true when the information and accompanying views pertaining to that information are directly as well as indirectly connected to the job the employees are expected to perform.  Also, who a school administrator, school board member, teacher or other school employee influences, supports, or opposes outside the school on his/her personal time is their business and Constitutional right.  This may be a bit radical, but technically if HB 449 passes, all school administrators, school board members, teachers, and other school employees would be in violation of HB 449 by exercising their Constitutional right to VOTE since their vote has a direct influence on the outcome of elections.

  • HB 449, Section 3 (1) – Part 1 of Section 3 clarifies many of the “can do’s” and “cannot do’s” discussed in Section 2; however, Section 3 (2) says that the school district superintendent and school board members must remain neutral by not engaging in political activities on school property and by not publicly supporting or opposing any political party, philosophy or issue in an election that could impact the outcome.  Superintendents and school board members are forbidden to campaign on behalf of a specific candidate or issue, or lobbying the Legislature for policy change.

RESPONSE: Lobbying the Legislature for policy change is a major part of being a district superintendent or school board member! The position of the district superintendent is a POLITICAL POSITION, so to keep him/her from speaking out on political issues is ridiculous! This is a blatant attempt to hush voices of opposition since the district superintendents are the ones in the best position to get their voices heard! Mr. Moore understands fully that by removing the superintendents’ right to speak out on behalf of students and teachers, he is in effect putting a muzzle on state educators, which leaves the legislators free to run Mississippi public education as they please.

  • HB 449, Section 4 (1) (2) – Section 4 of HB 449 sets the penalties for violation of this act. Anyone who violates the act will be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $10,000 on the first offense. A second violation of the act will result in a misdemeanor and up to $10,000 fine as well as revocation of the individual’s professional license and certification by the State Board of Education.

RESPONSE: While I am pleased to see Mr. Moore was gracious enough to allow the State Board of Education some say in an educational issue even if only in a punitive sense, I am amazed that an educator exercising his/her Constitutional rights could be fined as much as $10,000 while a parent guilty of child neglect for excessive school absences can be fined no more than $1,000. Since when in Mississippi did speaking up for yourself and exercising your freedom of expression become a more contemptuous crime than child neglect?

As the teacher who brought this newest development to my attention and the attention of many others said, “You (teachers) should be ENRAGED!” She is absolutely right, but if HB 449 passes, it will not matter. The Bill of Silence will effectively hush all educator protests.

NOTE – February 2016:  Educators across Mississippi should be enraged.  In fact, all Mississippi citizens should be infuriated!  Are we living in the Magnolia State where liberty and Constitutional rights fall just underneath God and Family, or are we living under the Mississippi Third Reich where educators are not considered to be free citizens with rights under the Constitution of the United States?  Who gave Mr. Moore the authority or the Mississippi Legislature (if this bill passes) over the Constitutional rights of any citizen of the United States?

WAKE UP MISSISSIPPI!
THE CONTEMPT IN THE MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATURE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATORS HAS GONE TOO FAR!

JL

©Jack Linton, January 23, 2015

Republished © Jack Linton, February 14, 2016

Initiative 42: Misconceptions, Lies, and THE TRUTH

I have been asked to share my perspectives on Initiative 42. First, I am honored to have been asked since there are people who could share their insight much more eloquently. That I am a supporter of Initiative 42 is no secret. That I have been troubled by the underhanded actions of those opposed to the Initiative is also no secret. Everyone has a right to their viewpoint as well as a right to take an opposing stand, but when lies and misinformation are blatantly told as truths, the boundaries of decency and integrity are breached. It is an injustice to intentionally mislead anyone, but especially citizens who want so desperately do the right thing. How can people be expected to make the right choice when they are relentlessly subjected to misleading information that has only one purpose and that is to confuse? Unfortunately, opponents of Initiative 42 have done an excellent job confusing the public about Initiative 42. I can only hope in these last days before the November election that more people will discover the truth and take issue with those trying so desperately to destroy public education in Mississippi.

Personally, professionally, and financially, I have nothing to gain by presenting my views on this issue other than the satisfaction of doing my best to help kids get a better education.   My purpose with this article is to separate the facts from the fiction. To do so, I have looked closely at both Initiatives 42 and 42A, researched news articles dealing with the debate over these issues, listened to people both for and against Initiative 42, and drawn, to a small extent, on my 37 years as an educator. In an effort to bring about clarity, I have broken the issue into two informative charts: Chart I: A Comparison of Initiative 42 Supporters and Opponents, and Chart II: Initiative 42, Misinformation and THE TRUTH. The charts represent the truth as I understand it, and they are backed by facts available to anyone with a little determination and willingness to research and read to get at the truth.

Chart I: A Comparison of Initiative 42 Supporters and Opponents

Public Education Funding Supporters Public Education Funding Opponents
History The state Legislature passed a law in 1997 that mandated that MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Plan) be fully funded each year. The legislators promised to provide each public school district in Mississippi enough financial support to adequately fund K-12 education. The state Legislature has honored the 1997 law only twice in 18 years.
At Issue Supporters want state legislators to be held accountable to the 1997 law. The state legislators claim they should not be held accountable to a law passed by a previous legislative session.   With the exception of two years, they have refused to fully fund public school education as required by the 1997 law.
Citizens vs state legislators Over 188,000 Mississippi citizens concerned that state legislators consistently ignored the 1997 MAEP law, signed petitions to place Initiative 42 on the November 2015 ballot. For the first time in Mississippi history the state legislators countered a citizen led initiative by placing Initiative 42A on the November ballot.
What does each Initiative do?
  • Initiative 42 requires legislators follow the law and fully fund public education based on the MAEP formula
  • Initiative 42 will protect each child’s fundamental educational rights through the 12th grade by amending Section 201 of the Mississippi Constitution to require that the state maintain and support an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.
  • Initiative 42 will authorize a chancery court to enforce the law to adequately fund public schools   A court ruling would require the Legislature to follow the law/Constitution.
  • Initiative 42A basically changes nothing.
  • Initiative 42A will allow legislators to continue to ignore the law and fund education at their discretion.
  • Initiative 42A does not provide any additional funding nor does it require legislators to honor the 1997 funding law.
  • Initiative 42A provides no accountability for funding public education.
  • Initiative 42A is a political ploy to confuse the public.

Chart II: Initiative 42, Misinformation and THE TRUTH

Misinformation and Lies about Initiative 42 THE TRUTH
1 If Initiative 42 passes, one judge in Hinds County will have the final say on how school money is spent.

 

THE TRUTH: A Hinds County judge will not be needed if the Legislature fully funds MAEP. If the Legislature fails to fully fund MAEP, a Hinds County judge will hear the issue since Jackson is in Hinds County and that is where the state legislature convenes. Any decision the judge makes can be appealed to the State Supreme Court, so a single judge does not have the final decision. Finally, the judge cannot make decisions regarding how or where state education funding is spent. How education money is spent is a local school district decision.
2 If Initiative 42 passes, a judge in Hinds County will be able to take money from one school and give it to another. THE TRUTH: The idea that a judge could take money from one school and give it to another was fabricated by a political group opposed to Initiative 42.   As Sam Hall, writer for the Jackson Clarion Ledger said, “The ad by Improve Mississippi Political Initiative Committee is the worst kind of scare tactic and downright lie yet used. He went on to describe the ad as “the lowest kind of politics there is.”   There is nothing in Initiative 42 that gives a judge the authority to take money from one school district and give it to another school.
3 If Initiative 42 passes, one judge in Hinds County will have the power to force schools to consolidate, THE TRUTH: Nowhere in Initiative 42 is consolidation of school districts mentioned.   However, opponents of Initiative 42 want the public to believe that if they vote for Initiative 42, they will lose their school district. School consolidation falls under the power of the Governor and state legislators.   The Governor and state legislators decide when and if schools are to be consolidated.
4 If Initiative 42 is passed, increased funds will go to pay for administrator salaries and not go to the children in the classrooms. THE TRUTH: MAEP funds pay for teacher salaries and instructional materials. Administrator salaries are set by local school boards and are completely under local school district control.
5 If Initiative 42 is passed, the budgets of other state agencies will have to be cut. THE TRUTH: The petition signed by nearly 200,000 Mississippi citizens included a full description of a six to seven year phase in process. Therefore, passing Initiative 42 will not result in other state agency budgets being cut. Increases in school funding would also be dependent upon state revenue increases.
6 If Initiative 42 is passed, taxes will be raised. THE TRUTH: Raising taxes is not required if Initiative 42 passes. According to House Speaker, Phillip Gunn, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Mississippi has enough money to fund all state services without raising taxes. In fact, at the end of the 2015 legislative session, they rose in support of eliminating state income taxes altogether. If Mississippi can afford to eliminate state income taxes, which accounts for about 40% of the state’s revenue, it is safe to say there will not be a need to raise taxes to support education or any other state budget. Raising taxes is a scare tactic used by opponents of Initiative 42.

Whether readers take to heart what I have to say is up to each individual reader, but I am committed to support all children, and I can assure you I will sleep well the night of Tuesday, November 3, 2015, knowing I have voted for Initiative 42 because it is best for not only my grandchildren, but all Mississippi children as well. My alma mater has a slogan during football season, “Southern Miss to the Top!” Wouldn’t it be great if by November 3 we had all Mississippians shouting, “Initiative 42 to the Top!” I bet that would put an uncomfortable wad in the panties of Governor Bryant and other state legislators so set on underfunding public school education.

INITIATIVE 42 to the TOP!

JL

Jack Linton, October 9, 2015