Tag Archives: Mississippi legislature

Today’s Teachers vs The Way It was Back Then

Public education in Mississippi, in the United States, is a dead horse many politicians and a large faction of the public refuse to stop beating.  By underfunding public schools, shifting support to charter and private schools, and openly bashing teachers for everything from poor test scores to the spiritual collapse of the nation, public school haters have effectively beaten public education and its supporters into submission, yet, they refuse to unsaddle the dead horse and move on.  There are others they could pick on, such as themselves, for the less than satisfactory conditions in education and society.  Lack of political and public support for underfunded, underappreciated, and undervalued public schools is well documented, but villainizing public educators is far easier than sharing responsibility.

Sitting astride their decomposing steed, they reminisce about their glory days in school.  They recall the “good old days” when public schools were home to superhero teachers, angelic students, apple pie baking moms in lacy aprons, uncompromising no-nonsense dads, and principals welding a board of education nicknamed “Old Hickory.”  These buckaroos worship at the alter of “The Way it was Back Then” –  a time when there were no bad teachers, kids were only mischievously delinquent, and Coca-Cola miraculously taught the world to sing in perfect harmony amid fields of butterflies flitting under skies painted with candy striped rainbows.  If you listen to the saddle busters, the world and everything about it was cool and perfect in the “The Way it was Back Then” until public schools kicked prayer out the school house door and messed up everything.

I lived and taught school in “The Way it was Back Then,” but the world singing in perfect harmony and mischievous innocents somehow escaped me.  Yes, over time, prayer became less conspicuous in public schools, but only after it disappeared from most homes.  Granted, there were many good teachers back then, but no more than there are today.  Forty years ago, you were considered a good teacher if you kept a low profile and did not bother anyone, and no one was bothered by you.  If you left parents alone, and never troubled them about their child’s behavior or grades, you were a good teacher.  You were a good teacher if you did not send discipline referrals to the principal’s office, and if you were popular with all your students, you were considered the best of the best teachers.  Little has changed over forty years, teachers still get brownie points for all the above, but today, in the era of accountability, it is much harder for a teacher to be considered good just by laying low out of the principal’s hair.

In a profession where every Joe on the street believes he can do it better, and political and education gurus who haven’t been in a classroom in years, if ever, dictate how to educate kids, today’s teachers must be better than good; they are expected to be perfect.  They must have the thick hide of a rhinoceros to withstand twisted evidence they are the problem rather than the solution; they must hold their tongue when factors beyond their control such as poverty, inadequate funding, and apathy in the home toward education are left out of the student failure equation; and they must cower before an accountability system that has become more about judging and dismissing teachers than assessing the strengths and weaknesses of student knowledge.  The result is public school educators feel so negatively stigmatized and traumatized they are fleeing the teaching ranks in droves.  Forget about recruiting new blood!  Why would a bright, energetic, young person with compassion for children want to be a part of a profession in which teachers are expected to be mechanical in their approach to learning, unquestioning before the data gods, submissive to political whims, and tied to research that often is only given the light of day if it is convenient and relevant to the ideology of the status quo.  In an era, where selective evidence is used to undermine teacher quality, turn teachers into scapegoats, prescribe quick fixes, and look at school reform as a process rather than a cultural change, it is a true miracle the American public-school teacher has yet to be added to the nation’s extinction list.

I say these things not to be negative, but to illustrate teaching is not for the faint of heart.  Even the best teachers I worked with during the “The Way it was Back Then” would not have stayed in the profession more than a year or two if they had been subjected to the distrust and lack of respect today’s teachers face.  Also, today, teachers never have a moment of peace from change.  They are subjected to change with every new fad, book, article, or political agenda.  Of course, change is not all bad, but when it occurs solely for the sake of change itself, to sell books, or is politically motivated, it can be frustrating and even demeaning.  Who can blame teachers for rolling their eyes and thinking “this too shall pass” when presented the latest, greatest ideas or programs?

Today, other than change, the only constants in the life of teachers are cutting corners to make financial ends meet for their families, providing parenting in the classroom for kids who don’t get it at home, bringing their “A Game” to class every day regardless of the cards they have been dealt professionally and personally, and being unappreciated and ridiculed for their efforts.  Teachers are not perfect.  However, they do not deserve to be unfairly judged and persecuted, especially for those things over which they have little or no control.  Contrary, to popular misconceptions, teachers are human, and occasionally, they deserve a break as well as a little TLC!

The good news is teachers, with few exceptions, are making a difference in the lives of their students.  They sacrifice, jump through hoops, dance sideways, do cartwheels, do whatever it takes to help students learn and become responsible citizens, and they do so despite a never lifting veil of distrust.  The cynicism against public schools is sad since so much of it is the result of perceptions caused by clueless negative hearsay.  Most school naysayers do not have an inkling as to what goes on in public schools; how could they?  With few exceptions, they have not set foot in a public school or any other school since they were high school students themselves.  Before anyone gives a blanket condemnation of public schools, it would be nice if they first visited one to see for themselves rather than blindly accept scuttlebutt and data that fails miserably to tell the whole story.  Yes, there is work to be done in public schools, the same as there is in private and charter schools as well as any other institution that depends on the human element for success; however, I am confident if the naysayers would put political and personal agendas aside for a closer look, they would be less likely to condemn public schools as a whole.

I taught school during “The Way it was Back Then,” and I will tell anyone who will listen, teachers have come a long way, baby, and the best is yet to come!  The challenges will not dwindle and go away; if anything, they will continue to grow, but the overall quality and resiliency of today’s teachers give hope the challenges will be recognized, addressed, and eventually rectified.  When it comes to quality teaching for all children, forty years ago was not the “good ole days” as so many seem to believe.  We are living the good days; thanks to better prepared, knowledgeable, caring teachers.

There are more challenges to educating children than ever before, but the number of teachers with the knowledge and skills to address those challenges are as great, probably greater, than any time in our history.  Therefore, my advice to everyone – teachers, parents, administrators, politicians, and the public –  is don’t look back; keep your eyes on the future.  Overall, we have good teachers in the driver’s seat, and if we hold on to them, support them, and don’t rock the boat every time there’s an uncomfortable swell, they will get our children and grandchildren safely to their tomorrow.  However, we must be willing to give them a chance, and not desert them to wolves with agendas other than doing what is right for children.  Although the current mindset toward public school education, it should be clear by now, you cannot beat a good horse to death, and expect to ride it to victory in the race.

JL

©Jack Linton, December 1, 2017

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The Trial of Silas Washington

Silas Washington’s opinions were no different than anyone else. Like most people, he said whatever came to mind regardless who he offended.  He didn’t intentionally offend anyone, but he didn’t worry about it if he did either.  Why worry?  In BS 16 (before shoulderboards), every spoken word or sentence, no matter how innocent or politically correct offended someone somewhere.  No matter what was said, around the clock organized groups specializing in the study and contextual dissection of words and phrases turned anything said into something offensive to someone.  In a common sense world, this should have made people choose their words and comments very carefully or shut up all together, but in a conspicuously combustible society such as America, the opposite occurred.  People threw common sense aside and became increasingly free with their opinions.  However, by BS 11, people across America, including Silas, finally said enough is enough.  They demanded something be done to reel in an opinionated society, and bring a semblance of sanity back to the nation.

Believing the federal government was largely to blame for the insanity, the 51 state legislatures took on the task of setting things straight. However, Cuba, the newest state, a state motivated by the tobacco tea industry and a surreptitious government rumor mill designed to invigorate tourism, declined to participate.  The 50 remaining governors called a convention in St. Louis in November of BS 11 to discuss and collaborate on measures to resolve the problem, but the meetings were cut short after only two days due to an overabundance of self-serving opinions on how to handle the situation.  In March, BS 10, Mississippi became the first state to introduce a solution.  The GOPAU (Good Old Politics as Usual) Party in Mississippi introduced a law forbidding opinions of any kind, especially those not favorable to the convictions and beliefs of the authors of the law.  HB 1313, as the law was called, was so simple in design and content, that other states enthusiastically adopted it as well.  By the summer of BS 8, anyone with an opinion – with the exception of select membership in the GOPAU – was subject to a $100,000 fine and solitary confinement in a state or federal prison for up to ten years.  It was not the best of times, but like the majority of people, Silas was not overly concerned.

By fall BS 6, with opinions banned, social media collapsed, and all elections were canceled since it was illegal to vote for the candidate of choice.  Rather than hold elections, elected offices were filled by drawing names from a fruit jar, which proved to be much more efficient and credible than the old election process.  Anyone Tweeting, texting, or sending a message that could not be supported by hard data was arrested for an opinion crime.  Since all beliefs were classified as opinions, churches closed and converted to one choice bicycle shops, and libraries, a viable source for opinions for the few people who actually used them, were sold to storage vendors.  Television was relegated to unopinionated news and weather reporting, The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, and Sponge Bob Square Pants.  All other programming was strictly forbidden.  As a consequence, and shortly after all musical instruments were re-classified as blue devices and outlawed, the entertainment business declared bankruptcy and ceased to exist.  No one had an opinion on anything, or at least they kept it to themselves, which Silas thought wasn’t such a bad thing.  In Mary Kay vs The United States of America, the Supreme Court ruled wearing makeup was an opinion crime since a person would have to be of the opinion their natural complexion needed adjusting to be acceptable.  Not even the stock markets were spared as thousands of stockbrokers on Wall Street were locked out of the exchange – speculation was most definitely an opinion crime.

With people tight lipped and prisons growing into gigantic city states, life was pretty hard boiled in The United States – that is until The Great Caffeine Rebellion.  Silas thought the rebellion was a good idea, but of course, he kept the thought to himself.  The rebellion began and ended April 1, BS 3.  The limited news reported thousands of people gathered in DuPont Circle and surrounding streets and restaurants in Washington D.C. to peacefully protest HB 1313.  With their plain black coffee – the only choice allowed – hoisted high in the air, the people slowly poured their drinks over their heads in protest of the discombobulation of America.  In Hot Coffee, Mississippi, several people, mostly kin, gathered outside Knight’s General Store and poured hot coffee down the front of their pants in protest against the law.  Other than a couple of nasty sticky comb overs in D.C. and some reports of serious shrinkage caused by scalding in Mississippi, no one was seriously injured in the protests.  Fox News staged an illegal analytical forum as to the effectiveness of the rebellion, but the government shut them down citing the forum as a violation of HB 1313.  As far as a rebellion, The Great Caffeine Rebellion of BS 3, wasn’t much, but the idea of once again being able to make simple choices such as the color of clothes worn, being able to choose to salt or pepper food, have an opinion on what was pretty, ugly, fat, skinny, acceptable or not acceptable, as well as have a choice in friends was so overpowering that in BS 2 the 30th, 31st , and 32nd Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America were presented before Congress.

Ratification of the Amendments was tricky.  As long as HB 1313 was law, the states could not ratify any new Amendment since the law strictly prohibited a change of opinion on the law; therefore, the nation’s lawmakers found themselves in a catch-22.  As a last effort, Congress released the Amendments to the states for individual consideration, but under HB 1313, the states were just as powerless.  However, one state, Mississippi, had no problem ignoring the law they created and becoming the first state to ratify the 30th Amendment to the Constitution.  Once again, the rest of the nation followed Mississippi’s lead.  Silas marched proudly in the July 4 Emancipation of Opinions parade.  The next day, newspapers across the nation were filled with local, state, and national opinions and wonderful blatant gossip.  It was a great day of celebration in America!

The 30th Amendment struck down HB 1313 as well as closed all loopholes or questions as to the patriotic heritage of opinions by linking them forever to the First Amendment and the American pursuit of liberty and happiness.  To once and for all resolve proprietorship issues concerning opinions and establish opinions as a sovereign right, the 31st Amendment established the right of first opinions with guaranteed copyright protections and benefits regardless of position, wealth, entitlement, political correctness or degree of sensitivity.  The 32nd Amendment protected individuals from incarceration for being opinionated.  Finally, to assure everyone happiness, conformity, and whatnot, the government contracted with Disney, Intel, and a newly invigorated social media to develop a Personal Integrated Sensory System Imagined Network Grid, or PISSING Network for short.  The first prototype was a monstrous insect-looking virtual reality helmet, which frightened little children and the elderly.  The helmet gave way to a more user friendly and breathable device, although slightly more cumbersome, known as a shoulderboard.  Wearing the shoulderboard guaranteed people in their everyday life the same anonymity and lack of accountability they had loved so much with the old social media.  The device was such a hit with the public and government officials that The United States Congress passed the Disassociation Act requiring shoulderboards be worn during all hours of the day except when sleeping.

Silas despised the four sided digital shoulderboard that sat on his shoulders surrounding his head, but he had to admit the apparatus was an ingenious time saver.  Get up in the morning, unplug the unit from its charging port, slip it over the head, and punch in the desired look for the day.  Presto!  No more hours doing makeup, shaving, or fussing with hair.  The manufactures still highly suggested bathing the rest of the body at least twice weekly, but from the shoulders up forget it.  To become whoever a person wanted to be, all that was required was to simply speak into the Intel 2022 mic or punch in a descriptor on the nifty Intel sychromatic wristband, and instantly the desired image appeared on the board in amazing Disney Realmation  3D.  Not only did the boards provide a look, but wearers could express any opinion or say anything they desired without physical association or accountability just like they did in the old days of social media.  People could literally be whoever they wanted to be; or at least who they wanted everyone to believe them to be, and therein was the problem for Silas.

Silas was a little man, and the shoulderboard hurt his shoulders, but that was a minor problem.  He was an old soul, and simply wanted to be.  His few friends told him to relax and let the shouldrboard work for him, but it simply did not work for him.  No matter how he tried to fit in with the shoulderboard crowd, that world did not click for him.  He tried a macho muscle man image on his shoulderboard for several days, but just as he was getting use to the part, a gust of wind sent him toppling into a nearby shrub with his feet kicking frantically in the air.  For children and smaller adults like Silas, the boards made a person top heavy and prone to tip over, which in Silas’s case did not speak well of his implied masculinity.  Another time, he presented himself as a square jawed, no nonsense cowboy with Southern roots.  He was opinionated, conspiracy loving, and ultra conservative.  As long as people believed as he believed, he championed their cause.  For several days, he had a blast criticizing opinions disagreeing with his and warning that stocks would plummet and the world would end if people failed to share his beliefs.  Nevertheless, after a couple of weeks of being better than everybody, he grew tired.  He was just not the in your face type, so he turned off his shoulderboard and set it aside, and didn’t bother to plug it into its charger.  He had no intention of ever wearing it again.  Three days later his home was surrounded by SWAT teams, helicopters, foaming at the mouth dogs, the Secret Service, FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security.  Poor Silas was taken away in chains.

 

To make sure everyone tuned in, Silas’s trial was held on a Sunday afternoon in Federal court.  The government determined they would make an example of him that the people would long remember.  The prosecuting team was confident his treasonable act of refusing to wear his shoulderboard would be a slam dunk case in their favor.  The defense team agreed.  They were envious of the prosecution’s case, and hoped for mercy at best.  Unless something went terribly wrong, by the end of the day, they fully expected to be home watching their client on the ten o’clock news as he was ushered off to prison in chains.

In spite of his attorneys protests, Silas refused to wear his shoulderboard in the courtroom and appeared natural – unshaved, hair knotted, and unwashed.  Warnings were flashed across shouderboards around the nation that some images (mainly Silas) might be too intense for small children and pregnant females.  Although his unkempt appearance frightened many young children, embarrassed his family, and sickened the majority of onlookers, not a single person turned away.  The nation was captivated by him.  For many in the watching audience, he was the first nonviolent individual they had ever seen held accountable for anything.

The court room was packed with people wearing shoulderboards – all except Silas. Everyone expected Silas’s attorneys to challenge the Constitutionality of his arrest under the 32nd Amendment.  In fact, most observers felt the trial might be more about the Constitution than Silas.  Therefore, the Honorable Joseph Summit, the foremost authority on the Constitution, came out of retirement to convene the court.  The President of the United States, with Ronald Reagan smiling warmly from his shoulderboard, sat directly behind the prosecution table along with several national, local – including the Governor of Mississippi, and even foreign dignitaries.  Silas’s family and friends sat directly behind the defense table; several of them had flashing banners scrolling across their shoulderboards that read “We are so sorry, Silas was brought up better than this,” and “Please, don’t judge us by our cousin’s actions.”

Silas sat with one elbow on the defense table with his chin propped in the palm of his hand.  Five defense attorneys with shoulderboards depicting Teddy Rooselvelt, Samuel L Jackson, Brett Favre, Jerry Clower, and Clarence Darrow, hovered around him all talking at once, begging him to take the government’s offer of five years in solitary confinement and a meager $25,000 fine.  They insisted he could not hope for a better deal.  Silas thought differently and refused to discuss the offer much less accept it.

As soon as the judge was seated, Bobby Joe Stalwart, aka Clarence Darrow, the lead defense attorney and a six four former linebacker for Mississippi State, jumped to his feet.  “Your Honor,” he said, “I move this case be thrown out by virtue of the 32nd Amendment.”  The crowd in the courtroom and at home sat up straight.  There it was; the case everyone had expected.  “My client,” he continued, “was unlawfully incarcerated, and he is owed an apology by The United States of America.”  The crowd nodded its approval.  Sitting directly behind the President, the Governor of Mississippi, Theodore G. Bilbo smiling from his shoulderboard, pumped his fist proudly.  It was nice to see a Mississippi boy take it to the feds, even if it was in a losing cause.  There was no way Silas was going to walk out of court a free man; not when a 450 million dollar deal for a shoulderboard factory in Issaquena County was on the line.  A rebel like Silas could ruin everything.

“Mr. Stalwart,” said Judge Summit, Judge Greg Mathis looking very serious from his shoulderboard, “first, you are out of line, and second, the 32nd Amendment applies to incarceration for opinions and does not apply to this case.  The defendant has been charged with the treasonable act of refusing to wear his shoulderboard in direct violation of the Disassociation Act.  His opinion is of little concern to this court.”

“Oh,” Bobby Joe said, and he and Clarence Darrow sank into his chair next to Silas.

“Oh,” gasped the crowd.  They had not seen that coming.

The judge stared Bobby Joe into his seat, and then turned his attention to Silas.  “Mr. Washington, will you please rise?” he said.  Silas stood.  As his attorney, Bobby Joe halfway stood, decided better and sat down, thought better of sitting, and started to stand again.  The judge watched him a moment.  “Mr. Stalwart, please make up your mind to either stand or sit?”

“If it pleases your Honor,” Bobby Joe said, “I sure would like to stand with my client.”

“Then I would sure like for you to stand with your client, Mr. Stalwart,” said the judge.  “Just be quick about it.”  Bobby Joe stood, towering over Silas.  “Mr. Washington,” the judge continued, “do you understand why you are here today before this court?”

“Yes, sir,” Silas said, “because you people won’t let me be.”

Judge Summit and Mathis smiled.  “And, what would you like for this court to let you be?” he asked.

Silas held his chin high.  “Alone,” he said.

From the back of the room, Jessie, Silas’s second cousin on his mama’s side, who had a 3D image of Dolly Parton smiling sweetly from her shoulderboard, yelled, “You tell’em cus!” The courtroom erupted with laughter.

Summit and Mathis frowned with remarkable synchronization.  The gavel pounded the sound block several times to restore order.  “If there is another outburst like that, I will clear this courtroom!” Summit and Mathis shouted in unison.

“Your Honor,” Bobby Joe said, “if I may speak?”

“Go ahead, Mr. Stalwart.”

“Your Honor,” Bobby Joe said laying a hand on Silas’s shoulder, “as this court and everybody in it and at home can plainly see by my client’s continued refusal to wear his shoulderboard, his ragged appearance, and his lack of clarity to your Honor’s questions, Mr. Washington is not of sound mind or body.  Therefore . . . .”  Silas brushed Bobby Joe’s hand from his shoulder, reached up and grabbed him by the base of his shoulderboard, pulled the much larger man down to his level, and whispered to Clarence Darrow.  Clarence Darrow jerked erect, red faced.  He stared in disbelief at Silas for a moment, and abruptly sat down at the table.

“Mr. Washington,” the judge said, “there will be no secrets or whispering in my courtroom.  What did you say to your attorney?”

“I told him to shut up and sit down,” Silas said.

“That is highly inappropriate,” the judge said.  “Mr. Stalwart is your attorney.”

“Sir, no disrespect intended toward you, but this court is inappropriate, and Mr. Stalwart is not my attorney.  I also told him he was fired.”

Ronald Reagan coughed loudly, and everyone sitting on the first row behind the prosecution table began high-fiving and slapping each other on the back.  Everyone else in the courtroom sat in silence, not believing what had just happened.  Without a lawyer, they knew Silas had probably cheated them of the courtroom drama they came to see.  The judge pounded his gavel to bring the room under control.  “Mr. Washington, are you sure this is what you want to do?” he asked.  “I highly recommend you reconsider.”

“No doubt in my mind,” Silas said.

“As you please, but Mr. Washington, if at any time, you wish to reconsider let me know.”

“I object!” the lead prosecuting attorney, Elrod Gladstone aka Vince Lombardi shouted.

“To what?” asked the judge.

“Your Honor,” Gladstone said, “you can’t let him change his mind later if it suits him.”

Judge Mathis sat back and laughed.  “Yes, I can,” said the judge.  “This is my courtroom, and I’ll do as I please.  Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” Elrod and Vince said, and sat down quickly.

“Thank you,” said Judge Summit.  “Now let the trial of Mr. Silas Washington on the charges of treason against the United States of America begin.  We will not hold his foolishness to dismiss his attorney against him.”

The judge turned to the prosecution table.  “Mr. Gladstone,” he said, “as lead attorney for the prosecution, the floor is yours.

Elrod Gladstone stood slowly.  He looked at Silas and shook his head sadly.  Walking toward the twelve jurors, he stopped halfway and looked back over his shoulder at Silas and again shook his head sadly.  The jurors watched him intently as he walked from member to member of the jury sitting in the first row of the jury box.  Six times he stopped, looked over his shoulder at Silas, and turned back to the juror to shake his head sadly.  “Your Honor, Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I will not take any more of the court’s time than is absolutely necessary.  Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen, it is the opinion of the prosecution and The United States of America that the defendant is guilty of treason against the United States as outlined by the Disassociation Act, but to avoid a long and costly trial, the prosecution wishes to exercise its protected right of first opinion as promised by the 31st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.”

The judge nodded.  “Mr. Gladstone, I was wondering how long it would take you to get to the bottom line in this case.  Your point, Sir, is well made.  By virtue of the 31st Amendment protecting your right of first opinion, the judgement of this court must rest in favor of the prosecution.  I therefore find the defendant guilty of treason as charged.”

The President was the first to his feet.  He grabbed the Governor of Mississippi, and kissed Bilbo square on the lips.  He then turned to the Governor of North Carolina and lay a fat slobbering kiss on the shoulderboard image of Andy Griffith.   The room was in complete bedlam.  The judge pounded his gavel, but no one heard.  The defense team of Rooselvelt, Jackson, Favre, Clower, and Darrow stared in disgust at Silas, but he looked straight ahead unconcerned.  After several minutes, the room settled down and order was restored.

“Mr. Washington,” the judge said, “do you have anything on behalf of your defense you would like to say before I announce your sentence?”

“Yes, your Honor, I do,” Silas said, and stepped forward to face his judge and jury.  “Your Honor, I am not a treasonable fellow . . . .”  A snicker escaped from the row where the President sat.  “Sir, I believe in the United States of America.  I respect the Constitution of this great nation, and I respect the prosecution’s Constitutional right of first opinion in regard to the verdict in this case.  However, I also have right of first opinion as to how the sentence is determined.  Therefore, Sir, it is my opinion, I should be held harmless of further incarceration or penalty.”

A deep silence hung over the courtroom.  The prosecuting attorneys and the President and his pals looked back and forth at each other not believing what they were hearing.  Judge Summit raised and pounded his gavel.  “Mr. Washington,” he said, “your point, is well made.  By virtue of the 31st Amendment protecting your right of first opinion in the sentencing phase of this trial, sentencing is hereby established as time served without further penalty.  Well done Mr. Washington.  Case concluded.  Good day.”

“You can’t do that!” the Governor of Mississippi shouted jumping to his feet.  “That’s not right!  The right of first opinion can’t be used twice in the same case.”

Judge Summit stopped at the door to his chambers.  “Sir,” he said, “it was used once for the verdict and once for sentencing, which is very permissible under the law you helped write and the Constitution.”

The President turned to the Governor of Mississippi, “I thought you said this was a done deal?  You said your 32nd Amendment was flawless.”

“This doesn’t change anything,” Bilbo sputtered.

“Wrong!  This changes everything” Reagan hissed.  “Andy!” he called after the Governor of North Carolina who was walking to door.  “Andy!  Do I have a deal for you!” Ronnie called, and hustled after the shoulderboard that had just turned to Barney Fife.

 

The heavily influenced government newspapers didn’t know what to print, so they didn’t print the story at all.  The Bureau of Bureaucratic Syphoning, BS for short, hurriedly rushed prepared statements to all the television, radio, and shoulderboard networks, thanking everyone for tuning into the realistic legal docudrama pilot that was scheduled to be broadcast on television in the fall.  A week after the trial, a follow up bulletin was sent out saying the pilot had not lived up to rating expectations and future shows had been canceled.  Three months after the trail, no one remembered the bulletins much less the trial.

Silas continued to refuse to wear the shoulderboard.  Due largely to the misinformation pumped through the networks after the trail, there were no reports of others following his example and casting aside their shoulderboards.  Six months after the trial, he walked outside one morning to pick up the paper from his driveway, and noticed a helicopter just above the tree tops.  “That’s the guy!” yelled a man in the helicopter through a megaphone.  Within seconds, Silas was surrounded by SWAT teams, helicopters, foaming at the mouth dogs, the Secret Service, FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security.  Once again, he was arrested and taken away in chains.  The government had decided they could not just let him be.  He screamed, kicked, and shouted his rights under the 32nd Amendment, but this time it didn’t matter, the Mississippi Legislature was back in session, and change was once more in the air.

JL

©Jack Linton, July 17, 2016

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

Shame on Mississippi: Hell No! We are Better than This! Ten Tips for Surviving Mississippi’s Apocalypse

Shame on Mississippi, shame on our state leaders, we are better than the backward, intolerant image they have painted for us!  State representative Karl Oliver summed up the state leadership’s attitude all too well with his response to a concerned Mississippi citizen, “I could care less.”  That attitude, that lack of concern for the state’s citizens, image, and future, has become evident in the actions and inactions of Mississippi’s leaders, especially the Republicans.  As a result, the state is trapped in a nightmare.  From education to religion, we have been bullied, led astray, frightened, and held hostage by state legislators, the lieutenant governor, and the governor who are dead set on recreating Mississippi in their image.  With dead end funding for education; brainless, reckless abandon for throwing away state money; introduction of laws that violate the First Amendment rights of teacher citizens, attention to frivolous personal agenda laws in lieu of addressing the state’s crumbling infrastructure; the passage of the most blatantly discriminatory law since the Jim Crow era; and an atmosphere of hate and fear married to a lack of common sense, Mississippians might think they are living in a Class B movie written and directed earlier in his career by Quintin Tarantino, or that they have been “hogtied” and dropped into the NBC TV series, You, Me, and the Apocalypse.  Mississippi is engulfed in turmoil and craziness like nothing it has seen in over fifty years.  Unfortunately, unlike a Tarantino film there is no end in sight, nor is there a bunker, like the one in the NBC series, for people to hide until the madness is over.

So, how can Mississippians survive the political and social craziness and injustice that is strangling the state?  That is not an easy question to answer, but here are ten survival suggestions that might at least save enough Mississippians to pick up the pieces and carry on if the carnage ever ends:

Ten Tips for Surviving Mississippi’s Apocalypse

  1. Trade in your flip flops for wading boots! More than likely, the crap is only going to get deeper as long as the present leadership has power in Jackson;
  2. Stay out of the sun! You don’t want to chance getting too dark;
  3. Never, ever, walk into a business in same sex pairs whether you are a couple or not;
  4. If you are gay and invited to a snipe hunt, DON’T GO!
  5. Incorporate yourself! State legislators may be reluctant to pay for the education of the state’s children, but they will give you the shirts off their backs if you can show you are a corporation in need of tax breaks and/or exemptions;
  6. If you are gay, buy a Ford or Ram truck, and become one of the boys (oops men);
  7. To steer clear of discrimination pick any sin you like except homosexuality;
  8. If you are an educator, I am sorry, but you might not survive. Under the present Republican leadership in Jackson, in the coming years, it will be easier for a pig to fart Dixie in a tornado than be a teacher in Mississippi;
  9. Speak out against being last, ignorance, discrimination, civil injustice, and abuse of political power! Okay, this one probably should not be on a survival list; and
  10. DO what Jesus would do and PRAY for the Pharisees.

Good luck friends!  We are stuck in this Class B movie by our own doing, or lack of doing!  With our vote and silence, we have allowed our elected state leaders to run our state into the ground by permitting them to prey on the people’s fear of rich, lazy educators, fear of government interference, and fear of tolerance for their fellow man.  Unfortunately, it won’t change overnight, and there is not a bunker deep enough to shield us from the damaging fallout caused by their pursuit of personal and party agendas as well as their mindless recklessness.  We are going to need people of action, a lot of luck, and a mountain of prayers to get out of this mess.  We need more Mississippians standing up and shouting, “Hell no!  We are better than this!”

JL

©Jack Linton, April 10, 2016

“The Not So Secret, Secret” Revisited: ALEC’s Dismantling of Public Education

In March 2014, I published an article, “The Not So Secret, Secret,” concerning the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) shadowy presence in Mississippi politics.  A few people took notice, but for the most part, the article was ignored.  Two years ago, such an article brought about visions of conspiracies and backroom cloak and dagger meetings that most people felt were more likely to happen in the movies or in some non-democratic third world country, but surely not in Mississippi.  In March 2014, most educators could not imagine in their wildest dreams the extent they would be betrayed by their elected officials in the following months.  After all, this was Mississippi, the state of hospitality, integrity, and a sense of fairness unparalleled anywhere in the nation.  Most Mississippians believed their legislators stood firm against outside interference; they believed there was no way Mississippi state representatives and senators could fall under the spell of an outside organization such as ALEC.  However, by now, Mississippians should know better!

In the past few months, Mississippi educators have witnessed an escalated assault on public education in the state.  This assault has been directly influenced by the ALEC agenda and carried out by ALEC members such as Mississippi Speaker of the House, Phillip Gun.  These assaults will most likely continue until all that is left of Mississippi public schools are holding pens for children discarded by the newly privatized system.  ALEC is not about the good of Mississippi!  It is about power and the men and women who embrace that power.  It is about keeping people in their place, especially if those people do not conform to the same beliefs and attributes as those in power.

Therefore, I am republishing the 2014 article in hopes the message may, this time, be clearer to educators and the Mississippi public.   I hope readers will pause to look at what has happened since March 2014.  I hope they recall the underhanded way the Initiative 42 issue was handled by the state leadership in Jackson!  I hope they will look at the quantity of frivolous and frightening education bills that have been proposed over the past two years.  When they read about the model bills ALEC provides to its members as legislative templates, I hope they will associate those templates with bills that are more interested in silencing public school educators and getting them under the absolute control of the state legislature than improving education.   Finally, this time, before the reader says this is not happening or can’t happen in Mississippi, I hope readers will take a long hard look at what has happened in just the past twenty-four months.

This article is no longer a warning!  ALEC is here, and if left unchallenged, its agenda will eventually destroy public education in Mississippi.  We cannot afford to continue to ignore that possibility or ignore ALEC’s presence and influence in our state.

JL

©Jack Linton   March 25, 2016

The Not So Secret, Secret

[First published March 2014]

Have you ever wondered what is truly behind the anti-teacher and anti-education rhetoric continually flowing out of Jackson?  Have you ever wondered why it seems the state leadership in Jackson has declared war against teachers and education in general across the state?  Have you ever wondered what is truly behind the push to privatize public education?  The answer to these questions is probably one of the best kept non-secrets in Mississippi, but every Mississippian needs to know about this not so secret, secret.  They need to understand that the crusade to link parent choice to privatizing Mississippi public education has not happened by chance nor did it happen overnight.  It is actually a part of an agenda that was put into place a little over forty years ago aimed at privatizing education across the United States; an agenda that has been called radical, dangerous, and a threat to American democracy.  Some people may not believe what I am saying, but if you are an educator, you need to heed what I am about to disclose and understand whether you like it or not, you are at war.  The war I am talking about is a long burning ember that has erupted into a full-scale blaze that threatens the very existence of public school education not only in Mississippi but across the nation.

First, I must admit I was in the dark as much as anyone else until about three years ago.  I was talking to a friend who was a high school principal in Louisiana at the time, and as usual we were discussing the good and bad about education in our states.  We were rocking along nicely exchanging stories when my friend asked me what I thought about ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.  My response was an unknowing, “Who?”  He laughed and said, “Get ready.  They already have a strong foothold in your legislature, so you need to pay attention.  This group is probably the greatest threat to public education in history.”  Despite my friend’s on-the-money warning, I did not pay much attention even when he told me a central theme to ALEC’s education agenda was privatizing public schools.  I just did not believe at the time that privatizing public education in Mississippi held any merit or even if it did, that such a notion had a “snowball’s chance in hades” of taking root here.  I still believe I was right about the lack of merit, but boy, was I ever more wrong about that snowball.

That snowball’s chance has exploded in the face of Mississippi’s public school educators.  ALEC and its Mississippi legislator members are running roughshod over the public schools by ramrodding charter schools, vouchers, tax deductions for private school tuition and home schooling expenses, and special education vouchers down the throats of local school districts by declaring public schools in Mississippi are “educationally bankrupt.”  Claiming their actions are in the best interest of Mississippi children, they are in effect funneling public tax dollars into private schools (vouchers) and into private for profit ventures (charter schools).  To bring this about, ALEC has brought state legislators and corporations together to form an education task force that drafts model bills that are intended to be introduced at the state level.  At the state level, ALEC members or those affiliated with the organization in the house and senate insert applicable state language into the model bill that in effect makes the bill look like original legislation introduced by local politicians.  This is not only happening in Mississippi, but it is happening in state after state across the nation.  A common strategy is to introduce education bills in mass to prevent opponents of the bills from blocking all of them at one time.  If you look back at the number of education bills that have been introduced in Jackson over the past two or three years, it is easy to see that this strategy has been in play in Mississippi for quite some time.  The bottom line is that this organization is undermining public education by draining public education dollars from the public school system to subsidize private schools and private tutoring as well as lining the pockets of for-profit corporate-run charter schools.

What I am about to say may offend some, and cause others to scream party partisanship on my part.  However, I can assure you that I have little regard for the failed political platforms of either the Republican or Democrat parties.  However, be that as it may, simply stated, ALEC is a marriage between large corporations and conservative Republicans in the house and the senate (ALEC membership is overwhelmingly Republican).  These large corporations buy seats on the education task force where they receive tax breaks for donations, privately vote on model legislation, and influence the task force with their corporate agendas.  On the other hand, the conservative Republicans get to flaunt their brilliance for policy innovation without disclosing their bills were first crafted by the corporate world for the purpose of expanding their profit margins at the expense of Mississippi taxpayers (I have listed resources at the conclusion of this blog that provide lists of Mississippi legislators who are or have been affiliated with ALEC).  Renowned education historian, Diane Ravitch, clearly sums up the role ALEC has in the current crusade against public education when she says,

“This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the  work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.  Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators.  Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own “reform” ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the “reform” agenda for education.”

But why would anyone or any organization want to destroy public education?  What is their motivation?  In February 2012, Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead wrote about the dismantling of the public school system in Phi Delta Kappan.  In that article, they said,

“The motivation for dismantling the public education system—creating a system where schools do not provide for everyone—is ideological, and it is motivated by profit. The corporate members on ALEC’s education task force include representatives from the Friedman Foundation, Goldwater Institute, Evergreen Education Group, Washington Policy Center, and corporations providing education services such as Sylvan Learning and K- 12, Inc.  All stand to benefit from public funding sent in their direction.”

If this is indeed true, and current legislation in the Mississippi legislature certainly seems to support that it is, then we can only assume that if corporations stand to profit from privatizing public education, maybe some of their membership stands to profit as well.

When it comes to politics very little ever happens by chance, and the current state of affairs with education politics in Jackson is no different.  The only “chance” in play in Mississippi is the chance that Mississippians are taking by not paying attention to what is happening in the Mississippi senate and house chambers.  I have always been a believer in capitalism, but I never thought I would live to see the day that some in our state legislature would be transformed from serving children to serving private for profit greed.  It is time Mississippians started paying attention and responding with their votes before it is too late.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 2014

 

Resources you may be interested in reviewing:

 

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Mississippi_ALEC_Politicians

 

This is a partial list of Mississippi politicians that are known to be involved in, or             previously involved in, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It is a             partial list.  You may wish to call your state legislator and ask about ALEC.

 

http://www.alec.org/

 

American Legislative Exchange Council – website.  You may want to look at some of their model education bills.  You might be surprised  see some of the same bills that have been introduced in Mississippi recently.

http://www.alternet.org/story/155257/what_you_need_to_know_about_alec

What You Need To Know About ALEC.  The now embattled organization has been working to destroy public ed for the past forty    years. Here’s   what you need to know about how they’re doing it.

By Diane Ravitch

 

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/03/01/kappan_underwood.html

 

A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education:  Coordinated efforts to introduce model             legislation aimed at defunding and dismantling public schools is the signature work of         this conservative organization.

 

By Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead, Phi Delta Kappan

 

http://alecexposed.org/w/images/7/7b/ALEC_on_Education_2.pdf

Mississippi Public School Education: In Search of the Emerald City

In L. Frank Baum’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a tornado ripped Dorothy from her home in Kansas and dropped her in the Land of Oz. To get home, she had to travel to the Emerald City to meet with the Great and Powerful Wizard.  In similar fashion, Mississippi is caught in the grips of an education tornado that has left both public school educators and state legislators looking for answers to the state’s education problems. Unfortunately, instead of a collaborative effort to improve public schools, many legislators seem to be more interested in taking on the role of the vengeful wicked witch than working constructively with educators.  On the other hand, thanks to directions from the Good Witch and the Munchkins, educators are slowly following the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, and its promise of a brighter future.  Meanwhile, the corridors of the state capitol are regrettably filled with the omniscient swagger of self-appointed education messiahs who have chosen to find their own way.  As a result, they are so far from the yellow brick road that they are forever lost in the land of the Munchkins.

These legislators, primarily Republicans, talk big about improving education in the state, but like the Munchkins, they spend the majority of their time flailing at overripe gumdrops and playing peek-a-boo from behind giant lilies, towering sunflowers, and tall weeds. They cannot see beyond party politics, personal agendas, pettiness, shallowness, and antiquated biases to get the job done. Instead of waging a war to improve public school education, they wage a war to destroy it and rebuild it in their image. These men and women have failed to embrace their roles as servants to the good of all people and have become the embodiment of disservice to the people. Is it any wonder why the Good Witch, Glinda, cries, while the wicked witch, Elphaba, cackles triumphantly?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy fell into a world she did not understand, but she was wise and knew better than to dash off blindly on her own searching for answers. To get back to Kansas, she listened to Glinda the Good Witch, to the Wizard of Oz, and ultimately to her heart. She did not try to find her way on her own; she sought directions, wisdom, understanding, and courage from those who knew Oz best. She embraced the unique talents of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion in her quest to get back to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Unlike so many Mississippi legislators who ignore and refuse to listen to public school educators, Dorothy embraced the experiences and advice of those who lived in the Land of Oz. She was smart enough to realize without them she would never find her way back to Kansas.

Dorothy trusted the inhabitants of OZ to help her get home. She did not attempt to silence the wicked witch or the winged monkeys just because they took sides against her (HB 49 and HB 958). She did not show bias towards the Munchkins, Winkies, or Quadlings (HB 209). She did not require those who offered their services to first declare if they were a horse of a different color (HB 76), and she certainly did not intentionally undermine the Land of OZ or the Wizard (HB 30, HB 56, SB 2006). Her goal was to get back to Kansas – to go home – not to destroy Oz in the process. Likewise, the legislative goal for K-12 public school education should be to improve it – not destroy it! The goal should be to unite the people of Mississippi in an organized effort to build a better and brighter future for the children of Mississippi.

If Dorothy had believed the inhabitants of Oz were less intelligent, she would have never put the ruby slippers on her feet or taken advice from the Scarecrow. If Dorothy had believed the creatures she met in Oz’s menagerie of weirdness were inferior or incompetent due to shape, color, or uniqueness, she would have never made it home to Kansas. Unlike so many in the Mississippi legislature, she embraced the strength that comes with physical and intellectual diversity. She embraced the wisdom and experiences of those who had traveled the yellow brick road, and by doing so, she found the Emerald City and ultimately her way home.

Public education in Mississippi will continue to struggle as long as state legislators believe they have all the answers and refuse to include educators in the conversation. If they maintain the mindset that public school education is broken and the only way to fix it is to privatize it, they will slowly but surely destroy public education in the state. Without respectful collaborative conversations, the outrageous, vindictive, and bias pens of Mississippi’s elected officials will continue to single out educators and orchestrate legislation designed to control and manipulate the life out of public schools. However, all blame should not be placed solely on the shoulders of state legislators; the ultimate blame for the slow death of public schools in Mississippi lies with the people of Mississippi who year after year tolerate the political malpractice that is suffocating public education.

There is room for improvements in public education just as there is room for improvement in the Mississippi Legislature, but in both cases, the goal should be to improve them not destroy them. Dorothy found the Emerald City by listening to and trusting the inhabitants of Oz, and state legislators would be wise to listen and trust those who live and breathe public school education – Mississippi educators. Ray Bradbury said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Likewise, the greatest threat to public education in Mississippi is not vindictive and bias legislation reeking of personal and political agendas. The biggest threat to Mississippi’s future is a public that remains silent and allows the non-supportive and divisive attitudes of elected men and women to undermine the education of Mississippi’s children.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD     February 19, 2016

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