AUSTIN – Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation commended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for issuing an Attorney General Opinion at the request of Sen. Paul Bettencourt that the “culture of voting” resolution recently adopted by a number of Texas independent school districts would likely violate the Texas Constitution and statute. That resolution, circulated by a group called “Texas Educators Vote,” included a provision that says, “Where feasible, providing District transportation to and from polling places” for teachers and students.
The Attorney General found that “Absent an educational purpose in providing students transportation to the polling locations, a court would likely conclude that the transportation serves no public purpose of the school district and therefore violates article III, section 52(a) of the Texas Constitution.”
It further found that “In addition, subsection 255.003(a) of the Election Code makes it a criminal offense for an officer or employee of a school district to knowingly spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising. A court would likely conclude that the use of public funds to link to an Internet website promoting a specific candidate or measure is itself a communication supporting or opposing a candidate or measure in violation of this provision.”
“The Texas Public Policy Foundation is pleased that the Attorney General believes the courts would see the issue much the same way we do,” said Dr. Thomas Lindsay, TPPF’s director for the Center for Higher Education. “General Paxton’s Opinion recognizes the ‘culture of voting’ resolution as a thinly veiled coercion of government employees, who were urged to support an oath in support of Texas school children’ by a group that seems to support a particular political agenda.”
Added TPPF Vice President for Public Affairs Stephanie Matthews, “This Opinion is Attorney General Paxton’s first for 2018, and we applaud the Attorney General for this common-sense ruling on a matter of great importance – the issue of whether public funds can be used for electioneering, which the law is clear may not. This Opinion will also help keep the focus of public schools on education, where it should be.”
“All ISDs should respect the rule of law and comply,” said TPPF’s General Counsel Rob Henneke said. “All school districts that have adopted this resolution should immediately take steps to ensure that its unlawful requirements are not implemented, in conformance with the Attorney General’s Opinion.”
The Opinion in its entirety can be found here.
For more information, please contact Alicia Pierce at [email protected] or 512-472-2700.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit free-market research institute based in Austin. The Texas Public Policy Foundation aims to advance a societal framework that effectively fosters human flourishing based upon cooperation and mutually beneficial exchange of ideas and speech.