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State of Texas
Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt
News Release
Friday, December 15, 2017

Senator Bettencourt Asks For AG Opinion To Prevent Politics
From Being Pushed Into School Districts

Requests opinion on use of taxpayer monies to promote candidate or issue oriented electioneering

 

 

Austin – Senator Bettencourt (R-Houston) has asked for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to opine whether school districts, encouraged by a third party advocacy group, are operating within the bounds of Texas law by promoting the use of taxpayer resources to nearly mandate participation in candidate or issue oriented electioneering and even calling for the use of public resources to transport voters to and from polling locations.

 

 

“The underlying public policy issue here is whether taxpayer monies should be spent on issue or candidate specific electioneering that pushes one particular outcome over another,” said Senator Bettencourt. “In my experience, as a Texas Senator and a former election official, the Texas Constitution is clear on this point and I am asking for Attorney General Paxton’s opinion on the matter.”

Ninety-eight school districts have adopted a resolution that, among other things, call for:
 - Creating District communications that encourage employees to participate in voter pledge programs (such as TexasEducatorsVote.com).  From Allen ISD’s, October 30th, 2017 Resolution for example.

 - Where feasible, providing District transportation to and from polling places.

 

 

“There is no fact, or supposition of fact, that it is legal to coerce public employees to sign an ‘oath’ to a particular political viewpoint and then use taxpayer money to help them cast their ballot,” continued Senator Bettencourt.  “The Texas Constitution prohibits the collection or expenditure of public money for anything other than public purposes. This prohibition is contained in the sections of the Texas Constitution known as the Gift Clauses. Taxpayers would agree that an ISD providing employee transportation to vote is preposterous.”

 

 

See generally http://texaseducatorsvote.com/

. These viewpoints espouse a political perspective on education. The website also links to other websites that are partisan in nature. As part of this partisan effort is an “Educator’s Oath to VOTE” which advocates for members to “vote in support of more than 5.4 million Texas school children” and highlights that election outcomes have the result of “supporting or undermining public education” and whether education will be “privatized” in Texas.   “This political group is giving the wrong advice to 253 member participating ISD’s,” continued Senator Bettencourt.  “I hope an Attorney General’s opinion will make clear to everyone the plain facts of the law.”

 

 

In his AG opinion request Senator Bettencourt asked that that the following two questions be addressed:

- 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?

- 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?  (Opinion letter attached)

 

“No group should try to stampede ISDs into spending public funds to influence voters to vote for or against a particular measure or candidate,” concluded Senator Bettencourt. “I am all for increasing voter participation in registration and elections, but it cannot be done by violating the Gift Clauses of the Texas Constitution, nor by spending public monies to influence voters to vote for or against a particular measure or candidate.”




Remembering Jim Guidry


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