Civic Education: Teacher Denied Paid Leave to Serve in Legislature

A Virginia school teacher is running to become a state legislator. However, his superintendent has notified him that he would not be receiving paid leave for the two-month session. So now it’s up to the school board to determine if he’ll receive unpaid leave (should he win):

House District 20 Republican candidate Dickie Bell has been told he will not be granted paid leave from his Augusta County teaching position to serve in the General Assembly should he be elected.

Bell said he would accept an unpaid leave and that is what he requested, but was told by letter by Superintendent Gary McQuain last week that a paid leave would not be granted for the two-month session that starts in January 2010.

If he wins the House 20 race against Democrat Erik Curren in November, Bell has asked to speak to the Augusta County School Board at its Nov. 5 meeting. The meeting is two days after the election.

Should the school board not agree to an unpaid leave for 39 school days in 2010, Bell has said he would have to consider “retiring or resigning’’ as a teacher. Bell said he plans to serve as a delegate if elected.

Both political experts and elected officials say Virginia’s part-time citizen legislature has great benefits, because it keeps representatives closer to their constituents.

But the experts say the entry to the legislature is often limited to those who have the resources and flexibility to do it.

So, harkening back to Monday Night Football games of my youth, let’s try a quick game of "You Make the Call!" Is this an appropriate example of a school district attempting to save money, or a blatant lack of judgment in not encouraging a teacher to perform a civic duty (and serve as a positive role model for America’s youth)? Or is unpaid leave appropriate here as he’d be earning a legislator’s stipend? Interested in your thoughts.