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Rahm's Board tells CPS workers to SIT DOWN and SHUT UP! during upcoming election campaign... How about that respect for the First Amendment rights of teachers and other school workers? CPS issues 'Ethics Guidelines' for upcoming political campaigns

With local election petitions due to be submitted in November and a major election campaign expected up to the February 24, 2015 voting for mayor and members of the Chicago City Council, it comes as no surprise that the administration of America's third largest school system would, once again, try to massively restrict the rights of those who work for Chicago Public Schools to exercise their rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. And so, while Barbara Byrd Bennett, the CEO of CPS, and other CPS employees are routinely hauled around Chicago to provide background for the latest publicity stunts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, everybody else who works for CPS is being ordered to SIT DOWN, SHUT UP AND STAY OUT OF IT!

Which is at least one way to interpret the September 22, 2014 memo on political activity issued by the administration of Chicago Public Schools. This one is a reminder that in March and April 2010 CPS officials tried to suppress the First Amendment rights of teachers and other school workers during the campaign for the election of officials of the Chicago Teachers Union (which was eventually won by Karen Lewis and the CORE slate). That particular gaffe by CPS officials was made back when a guy named Ron Huberman was CEO of CPS and the top lawyer for the Board of Education was someone other than today's.

Since April 2010, CPS has had two other "Chief Executive Officers" (first Jean Claude Brizard and currently Barbara Byrd Bennett) and has replaced virtually all of its top level executives (usually by firing teachers and principals who had been serving in those jobs and replacing them with MBAs who know nothing about education or Chicago's public schools). The mayor since May 2011 has been Rahm Emanuel, who replaced all of the members of the Chicago Board of Education and who appointed Brizard and Byrd Bennett, both of whom came from out of town (Brizard from Rochester New York; Byrd Bennett from Detroit).

Having erased the institutional memory of those who oversee Chicago's public schools, it's no surprise that the following memo was issued by them on September 22, 2014:

ETHICS GUIDELINES FOR POLITICAL ACTIVITY

TOPIC INTRODUCTION

Officials and Employees of the Board of Education of the City of Chicago have a right to engage in various types of political activities in their individual capacities and on their own time. However, it is important to ensure that political activities do not result in misuse of Board personnel, time or resources, or create an appearance that the Board supports particular candidates for political office. The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Code of Ethics and these Guidelines are meant to preserve the independence of the school system and prevent any appearance of impropriety. The Code of Ethics is available at http://policy.cps.k12.il.us/documents/503.1.pdf.

THE PURPOSE OF ETHICS GUIDELINES

These Guidelines are issued pursuant to the Code of Ethics, which authorizes the Ethics Advisor to provide guidance to Officials and Employees of the Board concerning interpretation of the Code. PLEASE NOTE that violations of the Code of Ethics can result in disciplinary action including dismissal for an Employee and removal for an Official. In addition, serious violations can also result in criminal prosecution. If you are aware of any violations of the Code of Ethics or need specific advice, please call or email Andra Gomberg, the Ethics Advisor, at 773-553-1312 or agomberg@cps.edu.

POLITICAL ACTIVITY DURING COMPENSATED BOARD TIME

Employees are prohibited from engaging in political activities including but not limited to the following during compensated Board time (with the exception of vacation, personal, or furlough days):

Organizing, hosting, or participating in any kind of political event

Soliciting contributions or votes on behalf of a candidate or political organization

Planning, conducting, or participating in public opinion polls, surveys of voters, or candidate questionnaires

Assisting at the polls on election days, recounts, or challenges to elections

Participating in any activity related to campaigning for any elective office, including wearing any political paraphernalia (e.g., t-shirts or buttons) or displaying posters in Board work space

Campaigning or working for or against a referendum question

Serving as a delegate, alternate, or proxy to a political party convention

OTHER PROHIBITED POLITICAL ACTIVITY

At no time shall any Board member, supervisor or employee:

Require any employee to perform any political activity as part of his or her duties, or as a condition of employment or during any time off compensated by the Board

Require any employee to participate in political activity in consideration for additional compensation, benefit, salary adjustment, bonus, compensatory time off or for continued employment, or award such consideration

Award or accept additional compensation or benefits for engaging in political activity

Deny or deprive any person of employment or tenure solely because he or she is a member or an officer of a political committee, a political party or a political organization or club

Misappropriate any Board property or resources (e.g., photocopiers, phones, Board issued email addresses, etc.) for any prohibited political activity

Misappropriate the services of any Board employee to perform political activity

USE OF BOARD PROPERTY

The following relates to use of Board property by political candidates, campaigns, and organizations:

Board property includes school buildings, parking lots, playgrounds, marquees, etc.

Political candidates, campaigns, and organizations shall be treated the same as other organizations seeking a license for commercial use of Board property. The Board requires that the applicant secure an approved School Usage Permit, pay all expenses associated with use of the property, and satisfy all other Board requirements including the purchase of adequate insurance. The Tenant User Liability Insurance Program (TULIP) can be used to procure insurance as needed. More information regarding TULIP can be found by calling 312-938-0900.

Political candidates, campaigns, and organizations can be denied access to Board property. However, if one political candidate, campaign, or organization is granted or denied access, others must be treated in the same manner.

Elected officials may visit schools in their capacity as current office holders. However, if they are campaigning for re-election or another office, or campaigning on behalf of another candidate for office, they must secure a School Usage Permit and follow the procedures described above. Any filming requires a specific agreement with the Board. For more information, please contact Felicia Matthews in Communications at 773-553-1631.

Political candidates, campaigns, and organizations may not use Board property during school hours or any other time that a school building is in use.

The role of a school is limited solely to the provision of property and not to the provision of participants, supplies, or other resources.



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