If you’re a teacher and you’ve been asked by your principal or superintendent to sign a petition regarding Common Core please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Imagine that you work for the government. One day an email lands in your inbox from your boss asking you to sign a petition taking a position on a political issue you disagree with.
Even if your boss tells you your signature on the petition is optional, would you feel a little bit intimidated? Would you wonder why your boss is bringing politics into the workplace? What if your boss had told you to use caution in speaking out on this issue previously, but is now giving you and your co-workers a chance to express one certain opinion?
Is that right?
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”There certainly seems to be an effort here to promote the appearance of unanimity on this issue among teachers and faculty. Something that might be enforced by giving teachers only one official outlet through which to express only one official position on the issue.”[/mks_pullquote]
A SAB reader who works for Grafton Public Schools thinks it isn’t. The reader, who didn’t wish to be named, forwarded me an email (see below) sent out to all teachers and staff asking them to sign a petition opposing HB1461, which is anti-Common Core legislation backed by Rep. Jim Kasper (R-Fargo).
“A petition is being passed for administrators and teachers who support ND Standards and ‘Do Not’ support HB 1461,” writes Superintendent Jack Maus. “The petition will be included in testimony against the bill and will be forwarded to District 19 legislators and the Walsh County Record. Please review the bill and sign the petition if you are against the bill.”
“I don’t appreciate a person of authority using their influence in this way,” my source told me. “It is wrong.”
I spoke with Maus who confirmed to me that he wrote the message in the email. He said that the petition is being circulated by the North Dakota Council of Education Leaders.
My source claimed that the school district had previously urged caution to teachers in speaking out about this issue. “There is a reason teachers aren’t vocal about CCSS,” my source told me. “In the spring of 2014 an email was sent to all staff members of Grafton Schools to not talk to the media about Common Core.”
Mr. Maus partially denied that claim saying he only told teachers at an all-staff meeting in the spring of 2014 to be careful about speaking out.
“Everybody has their opinion,” he told me. “I don’t think anyone was told to be for or against Common Core.”
“They were ever instructed to not speak on Common Core,” he added.
But those words don’t quite jibe with the school district’s actions.
While Maus claims that teachers are allowed to speak their minds about Common Core, something my source disputes, the school district itself is taking an official position on the subject and presenting that position as representative of all educators.
In fact a posting by Grafton Public Schools this morning on their website reads (emphasis mine): “The administration and faculty of Grafton Public Schools stand together in our support for standards based education, specifically the current ND State Standards, the cycle and method by which we are constantly working to improve them, and most importantly our local control and ability to locally determine our curriculum or ‘how we teach.'”
There certainly seems to be an effort here to promote the appearance of unanimity on this issue among teachers and faculty. Something that might be enforced by giving teachers only one official outlet through which to express only one official position on the issue.
Also problematic is that this sort of politicking seems to be against state policy for the use of school email systems. According to the policies posted on the support website for the state’s education email systems, the use of the email system “for political (lobbying) purposes” is forbidden. Lobbying is further defined as, “Contacting others to encourage or instruct them in performing political/lobbying actions.”
I suspect that lawmakers and the media are going to be inundated with these petitions (the state teacher’s union, North Dakota United, is also circulating a petition), but do they represent all educators in the state? Or only those willing to take a certain position on the issue?
As I’ve stated previously, I am completely ambivalent about Common Core, but I don’t think we should be ambivalent about efforts to control what educators have to say about education policy.