Public records show at least one “culture of voting” school district isn’t just encouraging staff to vote; they’re recommending how staff should vote by promoting “friendly” candidates.
The top administrator of a North Texas school district—Grapevine-Colleyville ISD—promoted two endorsement websites in a staff presentation, including one that’s endorsed candidates “friendly” to public education.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently issued an opinion stating that promoting political websites is in violation of state laws prohibiting electioneering with taxpayer resources.
According to a district email provided to Texas Scorecard, GCISD Superintendent Dr. Robin Ryan made the presentation to staff on December 19, 2017. Not only did Ryan encourage staff to vote, he also suggested where staff could find voting guides.
GCISD is one of more than 100 school districts that have officially joined the “culture of voting” cause. While district officials are quick to claim the effort is simply to increase staff participation in elections, the resolution GCISD’s board passed in October 2017 suggests it’s also about telling staff how to vote. The resolution reads:
“[The] Board of Trustees of [GCISD] authorizes the administration to take steps necessary to ensure maximum [voting] participation by District employees…which may include: Creating district communications that encourage employees to participate in voter pledge programs (such as www.TexasEducatorsVote.com) …[and] to use third-party tools to learn about candidates’ position on public education (such as www.TeachTheVote.org).”
Ryan’s presentation raised the question: “Is Public Education under attack?” Followed by: “Who has the power to make things better for public education?” He then emphasizes the importance of public school staff voting. But Ryan crosses a line by asking his audience to “do their research” by reviewing two websites that contain candidate endorsements: www.empowertexans.com and www.texansforpubliceducation.com.
We don’t have a recording of what Ryan said. And while there was no explicit bias given to either website in the written presentation, there’s obviously an implied bias towards Texans for Public Education dot com (TFPE). And not only because of its name.
TFPE’s website endorses legislative candidates, labeling them “friendly” to public education. A public school district that promotes a public education-“friendly” website to public education staff is obviously displaying a bias.
TFPE has endorsed both the Republican primary challenger to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Scott Milder, and Patrick’s Democrat challenger, Mike Collier. The Democrat-heavy TFPE has not endorsed Gov. Greg Abbott.
TFPE also lists “friendly” organizations; including several partners of Texas Educators Vote dot com, the same coalition sanctioned in GCISD’s resolution language. They include the liberal Texas Parents PAC, which gave money to liberals such as former Democrat Senator Wendy Davis, Pastors for Texas Children, the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Friends of Texas Public Schools (FOTPS), and many others.
Districts that have passed COV resolutions will repeatedly claim they’re not violating the law because they’re only encouraging staff to vote. But Ryan’s presentation suggests otherwise; that district staff – during the workday, and using taxpayer resources – were encouraged to use a website endorsing public education “friendly” candidates.
GCISD has expressed an implied bias towards TFPE’s slate of “friendly” candidates. After all, are GCISD officials going to claim they don’t want staff to vote “For” the so-called “friendly” candidates?
Taxpayers should be outraged at school administrators who abuse their offices to seek particular political outcomes in Texas elections rather than improved educational outcomes in district classrooms.
Public school employes who witness illegal behavior on the part of government officials or employees are encouraged to contact our whistleblower hotline at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view the entire PowerPoint presentation made by GCISD’s Superintendent, click HERE. Local taxpayers told Texas Scorecard they’re awaiting receipt of additional public records yet to be produced by GCISD, as of February 8th, 2018.