A bill expanding a ban on school boards from using taxpayer resources to electioneer and advocate for candidates or parties passed out of the Texas Senate with bipartisan support Wednesday.
The bill clarifies that an illegal expenditure of taxpayer funds as having occurred when an “officer, employee, or contractor distributes a communication in any form during work hours that advocates for or against any candidate, measure, political party, political philosophy, or matter of public interest.”
Similarly, current law in the Texas Education Code is amended to forbid and further deter districts from being able to “circumvent the prohibition on using public resources for political purposes by giving district email lists or other contact information to a political action committee which then engages in advocacy.”
This shuts down efforts made in recent election cycles by big government proponents to mislead voters about candidates and parties through political action committees and endorsement front-groups to use taxpayer dollars to do so.
Fallon issued the following statement after the bill’s passage from the chamber:
“Our taxpayers and parents are entitled to have their schools focus on our children’s education, not pushing for school bonds. The tax money we give our schools is supposed to be spent on the task at hand—educating our children. All their efforts should be spent shaping the future of our next generation, not pushing political candidates or bond issues.
The vast majority of our teachers and ISD employees [sic] do a great job of preparing our children for their future. We honor them and know that most would never use school resources for electioneering. But we have some administrators who just can’t resist the temptation to use public equipment or work time to push for their cause. That isn’t right, and it can’t be allowed to continue.”
While four Democrats broke party rank to support the commonsense measure, the Democrat lawmakers siding against protecting taxpayers were State Sens. Carol Alvarado (Houston), Jose Menendez (San Antonio), Borris Miles (Houston), Beverly Powell (Burleson), Jose Rodriguez (El Paso), Kirk Watson (Austin), John Whitmire (Houston), and Judith Zaffirini (Laredo).
Opponents of the bill throughout the process in the Senate were almost entirely members of the Austin lobby representing extremist, partisan interests, decrying that not being able to use taxpayer resources to promote their ideologies and support or opposition of policies, candidates, and ballot measures on state time or with state money as being egregious attempts to stifle teachers’ First Amendment protections. In truth, only the use of taxpayers’ time and money was on the line and finally protected from abuses by educrats to electioneer and campaign, often with taxpayers on the hook and against their best interests.
This session, other measures to clean up Texas elections and prohibit taxpayer funded lobbying have also received the support of conservatives who remain hopeful of cleaning up the integrity and transparency of government’s role in elections and securing the outcomes voters intend to see through.
The bill now heads to the Texas House where it will likely end up in either the Elections or the State Affairs Committee, each of which maintains a strong Republican majority.