Educators say SB 1172 limits their free speech

We've seen the protests -- education in Arizona can be a contentious topic, but some fear a new bill could silence some of the most influential voices in the education debate: teachers, administrators and school board members.

"Anybody that would not want citizens to have information is certainly swimming upstream with the culture in our state," said Timothy Ogle, Executive Director of the Arizona School Board Association.

Senate Bill 1172 tweaks the existing law, which prohibits school employees from influencing students. Now instead of singling out students, the revised law is much more broad, saying school employees "... may not distribute written or electronic materials to influence the outcome of an election or to advocate support for or opposition to pending or proposed legislation."

Any violator could face a fine of up to $5,000.

"I think most people agree that is an embarrassment to our state that we are spending our time that would actually limit information to our voters," said Ogle.

"We had our house rules.. attorneys as well as our senate attorneys carefully look at this language to ensure that it was not unconstitutional," said State Senator Kimberly Yee.

Yee says the bill also helps protect students and she feels critics have misrepresented the bill she sponsored.

"The bill protects personal student information for being used for political purposes," said Yee.  "The bill simply says you can't use taxpayer funded school resources to do that. Feel free to come down here on your own time, using your own vehicle, using your own computers, but use those school resources for what they were intended for and that is to advance education."

The bill is still waiting for a full vote in the House and Senate.

Fact Sheet:
SB 1172 - schools; information; political activity; prohibition

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