“Lewisville ISD believes a culture of voting is vital to the future of our state and country,” read a statement from Lewisville ISD in response to Paxton’s letter. “The right to freely elect leaders is the very definition of American Freedom and we are asking students and staff to vote and understand what impact a legislator may have on their daily lives. The district respectfully disagrees with the Office of the Attorney General on this matter. “
The state’s education code prohibits districts from using their funds “or other resources to electioneer for or against any candidate, measure, or political party.”
“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,” Paxton said. “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.”
In the cease-and-desist letters, Assistant Attorney General Cleve Doty highlighted incidents in which his office said the districts violated state law.
The alleged violations varied widely in scope among the three school districts.
For example, Brazosport ISD’s Superintendent Danny Massey was called out for openly endorsing Scott Milder in the Republican race for lieutenant governor. A tweet from Massey on Jan. 29 showed the superintendent and Milder, a primary opponent of incumbent Dan Patrick, arm in arm at a recent school administration conference.
The message, which was included in the letter via a screenshot, read: “Thank you @smilder for standing up for public ed. Red dot for Scott. Vote in the March 6 primary. #TASA18”
Massey also retweeted endorsements for Republican Texas Senate candidate Kristin Tassin, a Fort Bend ISD trustee running against incumbent Joan Huffman. Huffman originated a bill that would have barred payroll deduction of professional association dues for school district employees.
Lewisville’s violations, however, were not openly partisan.
Doty said a get-out-the-vote video featuring Lewisville ISD Superintendent Kevin Rogers “promulgated a campaign to ensure the election of certain candidates to the Texas Legislature.”
“I want to challenge you to unite behind a common cause this spring, ensuring pro-education legislators come out in the primary and move on to the general election in November,” Rogers says in the video. “So, we must be active in the primary if we hope to impact the landscape of Texas politics. … We are mad as heck, and we aren’t going to take it anymore. Are you with me?”
Rogers, however, doesn’t mention any candidate or party by name, nor does a district press release promoting the video.