An Oklahoma law that required thousands of newly certified teachers to sign up for a pledge not to teach in low-income areas could violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. In a decision released Thursday, the court agreed with a coalition of teacher unions that a “paycheck protection” requirement violated the rights of public school teachers to job security, which is guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment. While federal law is routinely interpreted to protect the rights of workers, educators argue that the Equal Protection Clause prohibits such a one-size-fits-all mandate and limits a state’s right to compel public workers to sign a disclaimer that may be impossible to fulfill. “They simply won’t come,” school librarian Barb Schick told CNN. “Just as they wouldn’t take it for a job interview, for example.” Judge Michaela Ford had called the legislation “stupid, mean-spirited, simplistic, and arbitrary.” “It is child abuse to deprive thousands of Oklahoma schoolteachers — people with training, years of experience, and the wherewithal to help improve schools — of the chance to instruct our children without the educational opportunity to prepare them for that opportunity.”

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