Governor Bobby Jindal has issued an executive order to put a stop to unfair acts by school officials trying to quiet teachers who oppose Common Core.
A story in the Alexandria Town Talk prompted the measure, in which an unnamed teacher stated she had been cited by Rapides Parish school administrators after she had placed comments on Facebook criticizing the standards. Multiple other complaints by teachers about being ordered to keep thoughts concerning the Common Core standards to themselves have also reached the governor’s office.
“We have received a lot of calls and letters from teachers who are opposed to Common Core, and we want to be sure that these teachers’ rights are protected,” said Shannon Bates, Jindal’s deputy communications director. “If teachers are being quieted in one parish – it can happen in others, and we want to make sure these teachers are able to be heard.”
The executive order protects teacher’s first amendment rights to free speech, specifically allowing them their right to criticize the standards.
According to the governor’s orders, during discussions concerning testing and curriculum, “legal guarantees afforded to all citizens shall be maintained and provided to teachers.”
It also states that local and state education administrators “are not authorized under the existing laws of this state to deny a teacher’s constitutional freedom of speech in order to stifle the discussion and debate surrounding curriculum and standardized assessments by teachers.”
While there was widespread praise for the move, some do not feel there is enough evidence to support such an action.
“We have not received many complaints about it,” said Les Landon, spokesperson for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. “But a teacher does not surrender his or her First Amendment rights when they go to work. We will defend that right.”
In a prepared statement, the governor’s office said the state Superintendent of Education John White, a Common Core supporter, had unfairly tried to trivialize opposition to the standards.
Four years ago, the governor had also supported the standards. He now views them as a federal intrusion on local education. Recently, he lost a lawsuit he had filed against the Obama administration over the standards.
In August, a judge had issued an injunction to lift Jindal’s suspension of two state test contracts linked to Common Core standards that White had planned on implementing for spring tests.
Both White and Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education president Chas Roemer are supportive of the standards, and have said they support hearing any criticisms of them, as well as the governor’s orders that allow teachers to speak freely.
“If someone was told they couldn’t speak up, that shouldn’t happen. That’s not coming from the Department of Education. We encourage people to speak up,” said Roemer.
Louisiana teachers associations were happy to hear about the order, stating that they had been fearful of speaking out against all school policies, not just Common Core.
“They do feel as though their jobs might be in jeopardy. It’s not just in Louisiana. It’s something that is common all over the country for teachers,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.