Texas Attorney General warns school districts to cease 'unlawful electioneering'

Attorney General Ken Paxton today dispatched cease and desist letters to Brazosport, Holliday and Lewisville Independent School Districts regarding violations of the Texas Education Code for unlawful electioneering. These school districts used taxpayer resources to distribute messages to their staff and the public advocating for or against certain political candidates and measures.

“My office fully encourages Texas schools to educate their students on civic duties and assist them in registering to vote. But pushing faculty or others to vote for a particular person is a clear violation of the Texas Election and Education Codes.

“These school districts must understand that they are responsible, as all state agencies are, for refraining from spending public funds on advocating for or opposing political candidates. The electioneering of these school districts is unacceptable and a poor example of the civic responsibility, integrity, and honesty that Texas educators should model for our students," Paxton said. 

The letters include screenshots of the school district’s political messaging on social media, as well as campaign videos. In some cases, districts distributed partisan information on behalf of the school district as a government entity, using resources that belong to Texas taxpayers. For example, Brazoswood High School tweeted a photo of Brazosport Superintendent Dan Massey embracing a candidate and advocating for his election.

The Office of the Attorney General asked that all political messaging by the school districts be removed from public space, and requested a written reply by February 16, 2018.

Tensions have been simmering between public education advocates and certain conservatives for months, in part over a “culture of voting” resolution championed by a civic engagement group. That resolution, some conservatives have alleged, amounts to illegal electioneering by government entities. Education advocates counter that they are merely gearing up to vote en masse after 2017’s regular and special session of the Texas Legislature failed to resolve several key public education issues – and they insist that they have not run afoul of the law.

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