Friday, December 17, 2010

What does an apple go for these days?

We're guessing that you've probably heard the old saying about the student bringing an apple to the teacher in order to curry favor.

What you might not have known is that, these days, state ethics law would require the recipient public school teacher to file a disclosure that they received the apple with their appointing authority.

The state ethics commission has filed regulations that govern how all public employees accept, reject or report their receipt of gifts. The basic rule is that a public employee has to report the receipt of any gift under $50 where there is the perception of a conflict of interest. Receiving a gift over $50 is generally banned.

There is a special carve-out regarding class gifts for public school teachers. Teachers can accept a class gift of up to $150 (or several gifts with that aggregated value), if any such gift is identified only as being from the class, and the identity of givers and amounts given are not identified to the recipient. Parents may also give unlimited gifts to the classroom or the school, through the teacher, in accordance with the rules of the school district.

We're strong supporters of good government, and we think that starts with strong ethics laws. In this case, we can see the need for reporting or prohibitions when it comes to large gifts; in fact, we assume most teachers would feel at least slightly awkward receiving such a gift from a parent. But, doesn't it seem a little extreme to make teachers file paperwork every time they get a small thank-you or holiday present from a student? Don't they already have enough to keep track of? Is it worth it to have teachers report to the authorities every time they receive a scented candle or a refrigerator magnet?

We say, let's give teachers a break. The reporting requirement for trivial gifts to teachers ought to be removed. Let's let teachers focus on grading papers and planning lessons instead of filing ethics disclosures for small holiday gifts from their students.

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