Education Opinion

Will the Holman Rule Affect Teachers?

By Walt Gardner — February 01, 2017 1 min read

I know exactly what you’re thinking. What in the world is the Holman Rule and how can it possibly affect teachers (“The Holman Rule Once Allowed Congress to Purge Leftists From Government Agencies - Now It’s Back,” The Nation, Jan. 19)?

The original purpose of the Holman Rule, which was passed in 1876, was to eliminate corruption among customs officials. Since then, however, it has been reinstated to allow any legislator to amend fiscal appropriations to reduce the salary of federal employees to $1.00. It doesn’t permit outright firing, but who is going to work for $1.00? On Jan. 3, the House of Representatives reinstated the Holman Rule, which means Congress can get rid of individual civil servants who have fallen out of favor for one reason or another.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court in 1946 ruled in The United States v. Lovett that the salary amendment was a bill of attainder that is specifically prohibited by Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution, the House of Representatives paid no heed in resurrecting the Holman Rule early this year.

I realize that teachers are not employed by the federal government and therefore, presumably would not be affected. But I don’t think the matter is that simple. I see the recent action as a harbinger of further attacks on public school teachers. States where teachers’ unions are weak could be emboldened to pass their own version of the Holman Rule. Let’s not forget that Betsy DeVos wants to privatize education in this country. With her wealth, she is in a position to influence state lawmakers. What’s next: Putting all teachers on straight commission?

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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