AUSTIN – The Office of Attorney General Ken Paxton recently sent cease and desist letters three school districts ordering them to end what the office claims is unlawful electioneering on the dime of taxpayer funds.
On Feb. 14, Paxton’s office sent letters to the Brazosport, Holliday and Lewisville independent school district (ISD) administrations highlighting their unlawful electioneering.
These school districts used taxpayer-funded resources to sponsor advocacy messages that support or oppose particular candidates and ballot measures, according to Paxton's office.
"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 previously in a release. "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."
Since Paxton sent those cease and desist letters, all three districts responded announcing that they will comply with the order or cooperate.
“School districts exist to educate, not function as political action committees. I am thankful that the school districts in question recognized this and promptly complied with Texas law after my office issued letters last week,” Paxton said in a recent press release. "By working with us so quickly, they help all Texas school districts understand that they have a distinct responsibility to refrain from spending public funds on advocating for or opposing political candidates.”
In particular, Lewisville ISD (LISD) general counsel Jeff Crownover responded to the cease and desist letter, claiming that it disagrees with the unlawful electioneering accusations.
“The district believes that the actions taken by LISD that you have pointed out in your letter are within the law,” Crownover wrote in a response letter to Assistant Attorney General Cleve Doty of the Administrative Law Division.
“The district wishes to express its disappointment about the way your office chose to communicate about these concerns,” Crownover wrote, adding: “Your letter was based on your observation with no feedback from LISD, and the district asserts that it would have been extremely helpful for your office to have at least spoken with the district before jumping to the conclusions you reached in your letter.”
According to the response letters from the Brazosport and Holliday Independent School Districts, they have completed or will complete any necessary steps to be compliant with the attorney general's office demands.
Some of the examples of unacceptable behavior from these districts include the posting of electioneering-like content on official social media channels. For example, according to Paxton's office, "Brazoswood High School tweeted a photo of Brazosport Superintendent Dan Massey embracing a candidate and advocating for his election."
A letter of finding, signed by Doty, took issue with this particular post and others like it that featured members of the school's administrative leadership posing with multiple political candidates and urging followers for their vote.
A letter sent to Holliday offered similar criticisms.