The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia says Jon McGlothian, a certified project management professional, needs a permit to teach management skills.
Which it won’t give him.
His wife, Tracy, an accomplished seamstress, also needs a permit to teach sewing.
Which she also can’t have.
In response, the Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of the couple with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Named as defendants are W. Heywood Fralin, the chief of the state council; his vice-chair, H. Eugene Lockhart; and other officials for the state agency.
“This civil rights lawsuit seeks to vindicate the right to teach job skills without first being required to obtain government permission,” the complaint begins.
McGlothian already contracts with a variety of companies and military units to prepare their workers for project-management certification tests. He simply wants to teach the same things at his vocational school.
The agency demands the couple obtain permits, which would require them to “pay thousands of dollars in fees, fill out dozens of pages of paperwork, and get government bureaucrats, who have no expertise in project management … to approve their curricula.”
The complaint states the agency cannot “constitutionally” apply such requirements because “teaching (including teaching job skills) is speech, and Virginia’s content-based prohibition of plaintiffs’ project-management and sewing classes violates the First Amendment.”
The institute said in its report that in Virginia, “you can teach anyone anything – except how to earn an honest living.”
“That’s the lesson Jon and Tracy McGlothian learned when they tried to open a school to teach job skills to adults in their Virginia Beach community,” it said.
“Yet the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) has made it virtually impossible for them to do so legally.”
While the state requires permits, the council “has refused to grant [them] for more than two years.”
“What SCHEV is doing violates the First Amendment,” said Paul Sherman, a senior attorney with IJ. “Teaching is speech, and the government has no business telling Jon and Tracy they’re not allowed to teach willing adults. Under the First Amendment, people get to decide for themselves which speakers are worth learning from; the government doesn’t get to decide that for them.”
Jon McGlothian, a former Army Ranger, used his military and corporate experience as a foundation to become a project manager, IJ explained.
Such managers are responsible for planning and executing projects, ensuring they are completed on time and on budget.
Their company, The Mt. Olivet Group, already is a Registered Education Provider with the Project Management Institute and teaches project management for private companies and federal government clients.
“But even though Jon is permitted to teach for corporate and government clients, he has to prove to SCHEV that TMOG is a qualified vocational school in order to teach the general public, even though SCHEV knows nothing about project management,” the institute said.
“There’s incredible demand right now for certified project managers, particularly here in Virginia and Washington, D.C.,” Jon McGlothian said. “Service members, in particular, develop skills and experience that make the field of project management a great option for a post-military career. I would love to help train people to fill those jobs. The only thing standing in my way is SCHEV.”
Tracy is an MBA with a successful sewing business and faces the same dilemma.
“What’s happening to Jon and Tracy is part of a nationwide problem,” said Milad Emam, an attorney with IJ. “Across the country, government bureaucrats are acting as if people who speak for a living aren’t protected by the First Amendment. But that’s not right, and the U.S. Supreme Court has said it’s not right. That’s why we’ve filed a lawsuit on Jon and Tracy’s behalf to vindicate their First Amendment rights.”