A top Republican lawmaker is seeking a ruling from Texas Attorney General over public-school efforts to “promote the vote” that appear to be thinly veiled attempts to electioneer for Democrats.
On Tuesday, Texas Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Paul Bettencourt (R—Houston) asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for an official ruling on boundaries of what’s become a disturbing and growing trend of “culture of voting” resolutions being passed by school boards around the state.
First alerted by Frisco Tea Party leaders Tom and Toni Fabry, Texas Scorecard investigated and reported last month that many school districts have begun efforts to “promote the vote” that appeared to run afoul of Texas law preventing them from electioneering with tax dollars.
One such example from Grapevine-Colleyville ISD included imagery similar to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and pointed teachers and students to partisan websites that direct them to oppose conservative candidates and a Facebook page where they encourage educators and Democrats to “#blockvote” for liberal candidates in the Republican primary.
“As a Democrat, I think of voting in the Republican primary as an opportunity to take one for the team. I want to take OUT the ‘Republicans’ who are anti-public school,” wrote one.
“I’m a life long [democrat], but I will be voting in the [gop] primary, just so I can vote against Dan Patrick & if he’s the candidate in the general election, then I can vote against him again,” wrote another.
After Texas Scorecard reported on such efforts, many of the videos and posts were taken down.
But despite public outcry from citizens, nearly 100 school districts have continued to pass resolutions and administrators have continued to engage taxpayer resources in order influence elections by driving teachers and students to the polls—literally.
Last month, Granbury ISD administrators used school buses on school time to take students and teachers to the polls on election day and provided them with a student-manufactured “voter guide.”
It’s those activities that concern Bettencourt the most.
“I am particularly distressed about the highlighted portion of the resolution regarding the usage of taxpayer-funded transportation to take public employees and students to and from the polling locations to vote in favor of a particular political agenda,” wrote Bettencourt.
“Such transportation also does not benefit the taxpayers,” he added. “Rather, it benefits the political agenda of one or more private organizations, especially since the transportation is only provided to those likely to support and vote in favor of those organizations’ political agenda.”
As could be expected, Bettencourt’s decision did not go over well with the Democrat activists on Texans for Public Education’s Facebook page:
They were joined by Bennett Ratliff, a state lawmaker whose father wrote the Robin Hood law and was removed from office by conservative State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R—Irving).
One individual seemed to understand the inherent problems posed by the “culture of voting” resolution.
While Texas Scorecard’s reporting centered on the Texas Election Code’s prohibition on electioneering, Bettencourt’s request for opinion from Ken Paxton alleges the school districts which have appropriated funds for the “culture of voting” appear to violate the Texas Constitution.
“The Texas Constitution prohibits the collection or expenditure of public money for anything other than public purposes,” wrote Bettencourt. “This prohibition is contained in the sections of the Texas Constitution known as the Gift Clauses. ‘No appropriation for private or individual purposes shall be made, unless authorized by this Constitution.’ Tex. Const. art. XVI, §6. The Texas Constitution guarantees that political subdivisions may not provide public money to individuals, associations of individuals, or corporations.”
Bettencourt should be commended for standing up, speaking out for taxpayers, and defending their tax dollars. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton should conduct a full review of the allegations and hold those elected officials and government employees who have violated the law responsible.