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Education Reporter

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Kids, Schools, and Politics: Protecting the Integrity of Taxpayer Resources, Cheri Pierson Yecke, Center of the American Experiment, 2004, 36 pp.

The problem of public school teachers using their positions for political purposes receives the attention it deserves from an educational policy expert in this position paper. Focusing on abuses in Minnesota during the 2004 campaign cycle, Dr. Yecke reviews applicable laws and regulations in all 50 states and recommends concrete policies to restrict such activities in the future.

Incidents in Minnesota last year include:

  • a teachers union suing the Lakeville district to force the use of teachers' mailboxes for the distribution of material endorsing John Kerry for president

  • fliers advertising a political fundraiser for a state legislative candidate were sent home in the backpacks of 3rd-graders

  • numerous reports of teachers expressing their political views in the classroom.

Such incidents were not, of course, confined to Minnesota, where Dr. Yecke formerly served as education commissioner. For example, in Boulder High School in Colorado, a teacher mentored a student overnight sit-in to protest the policies of the Bush administration. The same teacher plus a second teacher later performed with a student band named the "Taliband" which sang lyrics including "And I hope that you die, and your death'll come soon" while an image of President Bush was projected on a curtain. (Rocky Mountain News, 11-19-04)

In Montgomery County, MD, schools encouraged students to earn community-service credits by participating in a teachers' rally for education funding in February 2004. Schools closed early to encourage attendance. (Washington Times, 1-30-04) For other instances of teacher politicking last year, see Education Reporter, Nov. 2004.

The author concludes that Minnesota needs legislation to prohibit political activities in public schools and local district policies spelling out precisely what public employees may not do. Suggested language is included, covering such topics as political candidates, ballot measures, partisan political activities, classroom discussions, and fund-raising.

Most other states in her 50-state survey have laws, legal opinions or other state requirements prohibiting the use of public resources for political purposes.

This report is a useful, practical guide to anyone interested in the rules on teacher politicking and how to improve them. To order a copy, call 612-338-3605 or visit www.amexp.org.

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