Following a request in December from State Sen. Paul Bettencourt about the legality of “culture of voting” resolutions, Attorney General Paxton has weighed in declaring many of the actions called-for in the resolution to be in violation of the Texas Constitution as well as against the law.
Bettencourt requested the opinion after school districts across the state began adopting “culture of voting” resolutions, which are being pushed on school districts by the Texas Association of School Boards and call for districts to use busses to ferry students and teachers to the polls in order to block vote for liberal candidates in the March Republican primary. The resolutions are presented as a call to promote civic engagement, but are actually a tool created by Texas Educators Vote to promote liberal candidates.
Paxton responded by releasing a five page opinion with the following summary:
Absent an educational purpose in providing students transportation to the polling locations, a court would likely conclude that the transportation serves no public purpose of the school district and therefore violates article III, section 52(a) of the Texas Constitution.
If a school district employee has no responsibility or duty to perform on behalf of the school district at the polling location, a court would likely conclude that a school district’s funding of transportation to the polling location for that individual serves no public purpose of the school district and therefore violates article III, section 52(a) of the Texas Constitution.
Section 11.169 of the Education Code prohibits a board of trustees of a school district from using public funds to work for a particular measure or candidate. In addition, subsection 255.003(a) of the Election Code makes it a criminal offense for an officer or employee of a school district to knowingly spend or authorize the spending· of public funds for political advertising. A court would likely conclude that the use of public funds to link to an Internet website promoting a specific candidate or measure is itself a communication supporting or opposing a candidate or measure in violation of this provision.
The entire Attorney General opinion can be read here.
With the release of Paxton’s opinion, districts that follow through on pushing students and teachers to the polls will do so at the risk of criminal prosecution and of having the expenditures declared unconstitutional.