A public school teacher in Arizona has filed a lawsuit against the state government, accusing the state school system of retaliating against him for his outspoken opposition to the Common Core multistate education standards.
Brad McQueen, a fifth grade teacher in the Tanque Verde school district near Tucson who has been in the field for eleven years, has been a very vocal critic of the controversial education standards. In addition to writing newspaper columns and making appearances on talk radio, McQueen has also has self-published a book titled “The Cult of Common Core” attacking the standards in detail. McQueen has been especially critical of the PARCC standardized tests Arizona is scheduled to begin using this year, which are aligned with Common Core. McQueen argues that the tests create a major danger of student data being taken and exploited.
His criticism carry additional weight because McQueen has served on several committees created to facilitate Arizona’s implementation of Common Core.
Now, McQueen says his outspoken attacks led to an illegal backlash against him. He says he was removed from the educational committees he was serving on, a note was placed in his permanent employment record, and that education officials openly disparaged him in official emails.
In one such email reproduced for McQueen’s complaint, an official says frankly that McQueen should be disinvited to future committee meetings due to his public opposition to Common Core. In another, an education official calls McQueen a “f*cktard.” (This is how the profanity is spelled in the complaint.)
All of this, McQueen says, amounts to retaliation, especially since McQueen lost out on a small pay boost he received for attending committee meetings. He’s demanding that he be restored the committees and that any black marks on his record be wiped away.
McQueen’s lawsuit was filed by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank based in the state. One of the group’s attorneys, Kurt Altman, said the case was a simple matter of First Amendment rights.
“When you exercise your rights and find your livelihood and reputation are threatened, especially by the government, that sends a message to everyone around you to keep their mouths shut,” Altman said.
Arizona has been a member of Common Core for several years, but the standards may quickly be on their way out. Newly-elected school superintendent Diane Douglas ran a single-issue campaign centered on destroying the standards, and incoming governor Doug Ducey has expressed his opposition as well. Ironically, since McQueen’s lawsuit is targeted that the office of state superintendent, Douglas herself will presumably become the defendant as soon as she takes over for outgoing incumbent John Huppenthal. Whether the lawsuit will continue long afterwards is uncertain, however, as a sympathetic Douglas could potentially remedy each of McQueen’s alleged harms by restoring him to his committee posts.
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