Pittman praises veto of restriction on political speakers

From CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Rep. Anastasia Pittman, an Oklahoma City Democrat, last week applauded Gov. Brad Henry for vetoing a bill she believes would have blocked teachers’ access to learning about current political events.

“This bill was overly restrictive, and I am glad to see the Governor’s veto,” she stated.  “I think that when it comes to political issues – especially ones carrying some controversy – we should encourage more dialogue, not shut down these opportunities.”

HB 2161 would have prohibited speakers – including candidates for political office – from discussing elections or ballot measures during teacher meetings, including in-service trainings.  It would also bar distribution of materials related to a candidate or elections.

Pittman stated that she voted against the original bill because it could easily have been misinterpreted to have unintended consequences.

“I would never want a school district to punish its teachers because they simply were trying to become better informed about the issues of the day,” she said.  “But I believe that would have been a distinct possibility under this legislation.  Our teachers should not be deprived of access to political speakers – access is the key to learning.”

In his veto statement, Gov. Henry explained that he believed this bill could have resulted in uneven application of the rule from district to district.  He also said that the measure would have taken away local control from school districts, diminishing their ability to make the best choices for their schools and teachers.

“Our schools need to have the freedom to bring in the best speakers to address the concerns of their teachers.  They shouldn’t fear punishment just for talking about the issues of the day – many of which have serious consequences for education,” Rep. Pittman continued.

“I hope that our schools will continue to take advantage of their relationship with public officials.  We rely on open dialogue with our constituents – including our teachers – to better serve our communities.”