For whatever reason, Texas public schools seem to be engaged in an awful lot of election-related shenanigans recently.
For instance, a few years ago Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued “cease and desist letters to Brazosport, Holliday and Lewisville Independent School Districts regarding violations of the Texas Education Code for unlawful electioneering.” Later that same year, the AG warned also Elgin and Galena Park ISDs to stop “unlawful electioneering activities.”
Following that, South San ISD created controversy by “using district school buses…to transport South San employees to polling sites located at the central office administration building and South San High School.” Then, of course, there were allegations of abuse against Richardson ISD (i.e. promoting “an advertisement to ‘help get the Democratic voting info out’ by going door to door and delivering ‘election literature’”), Belton ISD (i.e. “us[ing] school resources to advocate for a position in the most recent bond election”) and Midland ISD (i.e. “a number of MISD teachers who stated they were instructed to send school kids home with informational fliers promoting only positive aspects of the bond”).
However, the most notable violator of late has been Northside ISD.
In May, NISD officials found themselves in hot water after it was revealed that a principal pressured staff to vote in a bond election, saying: “Thank you for supporting the NISD Bond 2022. As per Dr. Woods, all employees will be expected to vote for this year’s Bond.” The principal also warned: “Central Office will be monitoring campus percentages for employee voting stats in the next weeks to come and will be expecting ALL employees to vote.” Once it became public, the principal’s message to staff was roundly criticized and even earned special attention from Gov. Greg Abbott, who said: “I have spoken with Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath about this. He confirms that IF these posts are verified, then it is likely a crime. The Education Commissioner with [sic] work with the Attorney General’s Office to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute this matter.”
To make matters worse, NISD Superintendent Brian Woods seems to have been caught this week sending an email to staff promoting his personal politics and stressing that this is: “just one more reason to be registered to vote in the critically important upcoming November election.”
In both cases, NISD appears to be playing politics on the public dime, which is contrary to state laws dealing with school electioneering.
The frequency and flagrancy of these troubling acts merits legislative attention and reform. It’s time that Texas made it clear that public school politicking isn’t acceptable—and those who openly flout the law will face stiff penalties. This is a wrong that needs to be made right.