Last year our schools bled red--Red For Ed. This coalition of teachers, education support professionals and administrators was the driving force behind the six-day walkout and the closing of our entire district school system and some charter schools.
Leading up to and following the walkout, it was clear that Red For Ed was in the driver’s seat. The group has liaisons at each school and well-structured teams that have essentially been allowed to conduct their efforts freely in our schools Many teachers and staff wore Red For Ed attire, t-shirts with slogans like "we are worth more" and organized Wednesday wear red campaigns at our schools. They passed out literature and used our schools as sites for walk ins and other events which parents and students were encouraged to participate. They even used our schools as voting sites as to whether or not they would walkout. Many school Facebook pages were full of Red For Ed related posts.
No one stopped them.
After the walkout many parents started to question the Red For Ed movement and if they were politically motivated. The group claims to be “nonpartisan” but that was questioned as some of their leaders have been openly tied to socialism groups and the Democratic Party. Even after the walkout it became clear that Red For Ed was not done as they prepared to start petitioning to get a proposition on the ballot entitled Invest In Education asking for more money for teacher/staff raises and school funding.
Parent groups such as Purple For Parents began putting pressure on schools and the district to admit that teachers and employees engaging in and promoting Red For Ed on our school campuses could be a violation of an Arizona statute (ARS 15-511) that prohibits the use of school district or charter school resources or employees from influencing the outcome of elections. Not everyone agreed with Red For Ed or their efforts, including many teachers who didn’t want to walk out, but our schools seemed to be bleeding red. Our students didn’t need to be subjected to that.
Finally in May, Gilbert Superintendent Shane McCord issued a memo to school staff indicating that the wearing of Red For Ed shirts was “distracting” from the education process and may be in violation of ARS 15-511. “I am not in a position to know whether A.R.S. §15-511 is applicable to any particular employee at this time. However, I am not basing my direction regarding dress code on that law. Rather, I believe that it is in the best interest of students and our overall educational mission to avoid potential or actual conflicts, discomfort or other negative outcomes and instead, focus on student instruction and professional responsibilities.”
So where does that leave us now? Red For Ed supporters spent their summer gathering signatures to get the Invest In Education proposition on the ballot. Now that they are clearly tied to a proposition, there is no question that any efforts on school grounds regarding Red For Ed or Invest In Ed clearly violate ARS 15-511. Going into an election season and the start of a new school year, we feel it is our duty to remind our Superintendent, School Board, administrators and the supporters of these efforts of the professional responsibilities they are required to uphold and the potential legal ramifications of violating ARS 15-511.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue--politics has NO place in our schools. What should be a united front to help solve our education crisis has turned into a political war and has created a division among teachers, parents, taxpayers and others. Our schools and classrooms do not need to be political battlegrounds and we will fight to keep them nonpartisan for the benefit of our children. Everyone has the right to their own political beliefs but expressing these beliefs belongs outside of our schools. Bringing them on campus is unfair to our students, unprofessional and most of all-- is against the law.
We took matters into our own hands to set the expectation that we will not tolerate any politics in our schools. We sent a memo to every district school principal on August 2, 2018. Read the letter
If you see political activity happening on any school campus we encourage you to report it. See below for suggestions on how to do so. Reports can even be made anonymously here on this page. Check out our violation guide for more info.
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