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State Senate Committe Votes to Limit Political Speech

A Senate panel voted Wednesday to make it illegal for public school teachers to promote partisan viewpoints. 

Senator Lori Klein said she has heard complaints that some teachers are espousing their own political beliefs in the classroom. Her legislation says any instructor that promotes 'partisan doctrine' would automatically lose his or her license to teach. The same would be true of any of what Klein calls uni-partisan exercises or anything that indoctrinates pupils to accept the teacher's viewpoints. Senator David Lujan said he fears a ban on anything considered partisan.

"The language that we have here is so broad that you're going to stifle the education environment and stifle kids' ability to learn," said Lujan, "whether it be social studies, whether it be science. Let's say they're talking in science and a teacher brings up global warming. That could be considered a partisan issue."

But Sen. Rick Murphy said Lujan is needlessly worried.

"As long as the teacher was tolerant of people having other views and not punitive towards them if they express those and try to persuade their classmates of that, because it's relevant to the class,"  said Murphy. "I wouldn't see a problem with that."

And Murphy said it's a matter of context, saying it's one thing to talk politics in a social studies class, but It's quite another to make it part of a math course. The Government Reform Committee approved the measure on a 5-2 vote.