Efforts encouraging Texas teachers and other school employees to become more involved in the 2018 statewide and legislative elections appear to have drawn the attention of certain statewide leaders and groups.

The conservative research group Empower Texans posted a blog entry in November that began with this statement: “In schools across the state, administrators and school board members are encouraging their employees to vote in the upcoming elections. But while these may appear to be a move towards good citizenship they’re actually something more sinister — government electioneering.” The blog goes on to assert, “…a legion of unions and liberal organizations are banding together to promote a “Voting of Culture” resolutions [sic] that school boards can adopt that go as far as to encourage ISD’s to use school buses and other taxpayer resources to ferry teachers to the polls in a wink-wink-nod-nod attempt to ensure they support their preferred candidates.”

Subsequently, Texas school districts and certain supporters of public education (including TCTA) were targeted by a South Texas newspaper, the Texas Monitor, seeking information on school district communications dating back to July 1, 2017, with and about certain groups and political issues. The wide-ranging public information request has reportedly been sent to every school district in Texas.

The request asks for:

  • All district/superintendent correspondence, or physical or electronic literature disseminated to school employees, that is related to elections and get-out-the-vote efforts;
  • Such correspondence or literature containing words such as “Republican,” “Democrat,” and “crossover” (presumably referring to individuals voting in a different party primary than they usually participate in); and
  • Correspondence the district or superintendent has had with any of a number of individuals and groups, including teacher groups like TCTA, administrator groups, other education advocacy groups such as Raise Your Hand Texas and Texas Parent PAC, state legislators or staff, the House Public Education Committee or staff, Pastors for Texas Children, and more.

On Dec. 12, a prominent state senator sent a request for an attorney general opinion, asking AG Ken Paxton to provide a formal opinion to answer the following questions:

  1. Does a school district providing or securing transportation for employees or students to and/or from polling places violate the Gift Clauses of the Texas Constitution?
  2. What legal constraints exist regarding a school district’s ability to spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising or communications designed to influence voters to vote for or against a particular measure or candidate?

District employees are prohibited from using public resources to support or oppose a political issue or candidate. Communications using district resources, including a district email address, are not confidential and can be made public. (This is one of the reasons TCTA asks members to provide a personal, rather than work, email address.)

TCTA is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates for political office.