Teachers in Arizona would automatically be fired for bringing "partisan doctrine" into their classrooms under a bill pending before the state legislature.
Arizona Senate bill 1202 is meant to ensure students get a balanced view of what they're taught in school, Capitol Media Services reported. In addition to firing teachers who bring partisanship into the classroom, school districts that allow it to happen would face losing state funding.
The bill is being sponsored by state Sen. Lori Klein of Anthem, who said she has received complaints about "political indoctrination in the classroom," according to CMS. Klein, a Republican, is also sponsoring a separate measure that if passed would see teachers suspended or fired for using profanity in the classroom.
SB 1202 passed out of the Arizona Senate Government Reform Committee last week and is now set to go before the full state Senate for a vote. It comes after the Tucson Unified School District suspended its controversial Mexican-American studies program after it was set to lose funding on the grounds the curriculum violated a newly-enacted state law specifically designed to target the program. State officials contended the program promoted reverse-racism, and the law prohibits classes designed for a particular ethnic group or which “promote resentment toward a race of class of people.”
Arizona GOP congressional candidate Gabriela Saucedo Mercer testified in favor of the bill, telling lawmakers: “I have seen, firsthand, the damage done to our young students by partisans who pretend to be educators."
“I have seen young students who, through classroom indoctrination rather than instruction, were incited to threaten and harass anyone who disagrees with their position," she said, according to CMS.
Mercer added that it's one thing when university professors bring politics into their teaching, but quite another when it's done in a classroom full of young students.
“When you are targeting young, impressionable minds, starting from kindergarten, these children get lost,” she said.
What exactly defines a "partisan" opinion was a point of contention for legislators, CMS reported, but Klein said the bill is simply to ensure one point of view isn't emphasized over another, regardless of ideology.
“It doesn't matter,” she said. “Republicans or conservatives should not be promoting their point of view. Liberals, socialists, Marxists should not be espousing their views in the classroom.”
The committee stripped the legislation of any penalty for using partisan books -- ones that a history teacher might assign about a U.S. president, for example -- but one lawmaker remained concerned the bill could stifle the learning environment.
“The language here is so broad that you're going to stifle the education environment and kids' ability to learn. Let's say they're talking in science [class] and a teacher throws out ‘global warming.' That could be considered a partisan issue," Phoenix Democratic Sen. David Lujan said according to CMS, adding that it should be up to the students to decide whether they believe in the issue.
Glendale Republican Sen. Rick Murphy said much of it comes down to context.
“As long as the teacher was tolerant of people having other views and not punitive towards them if they express those and try to persuade their classmates of that, and as long as its relevant, I don't see a problem with that,” Murphy said. “If they're talking about what's relevant to the class, I wouldn't see a problem with that. But if they're talking about it in math, I would have concerns.”