With Mississippi’s Election Day now only a month away, the public discussion of Initiative 42 is reaching a fever pitch. Politicians, media commentators, and even special interest groups have made their stances known. One set of voices we feel is conspicuously absent from the conversation is that of the majority of Mississippi’s teachers and school administrators.
Though the Mississippi Association of Educators has come out publicly in support of Initiative 42, there are signs most teachers do not feel comfortable offering opinions on the issue. Indeed, these professionals are public employees under constant scrutiny and political pressure to stay quiet. As individuals, it is safest for them to stay “under the radar” and not attract unnecessary attention.
We feel the impact of Initiative 42 on the lives of Mississippi students is simply too great to expect education professionals to let career politicians dominate the conversation. We wish to remind Mississippi teachers of their right to free speech as American citizens. State Attorney General Jim Hood has affirmed the right of every Mississippi teacher to speak out for or against Initiative 42 with no retribution, as long as school time and resources are not used. To be clear: After school hours, away from state-provided equipment and email addresses, teachers are ordinary citizens with the right to express opinion on issues of public concern. Workplace punishment for such is blatantly illegal.
Mississippi’s teachers have valuable perspective on taxpayer-provided education funds and their use in the classroom. We believe professional educators are duty bound to share that important perspective with the voters, before November 3rd.