A local DFW school district potentially violated multiple state laws prohibiting electioneering and political advertising with tax dollars on the eve of Tuesday’s general election.
Wylie Independent School District (ISD) sent out a direct mail piece to residents of the district that arrived in mailboxes on Saturday, November 5.
Wylie ISD is listed as the sender on the piece and paid for it with public tax dollars levied by the district.
The mail piece resembled a political campaign flyer, the receipt of which is common during this time of year due to the upcoming elections.
On both sides of the mail piece, Wylie ISD claimed to be presenting residents with “the facts” about the district.
“There’s been misinformation circulating in our community about our school district. We want to take a moment to share the facts,” a headline on the mail piece read.
The “facts” Wylie ISD wanted residents to know about had to do with a number of hot-button issues that are at the center of a contentious battle for control of the school board in Tuesday’s election.
The mailer insisted that Wylie ISD does not teach critical race theory or have any explicit or pornographic materials on campus. It also insisted that the district teaches “values” and promotes “patriotism.”
Moreover, the mail piece contained a link to the district’s website, where a page had been set up mirroring its content and providing users with more in-depth explanations of the claims being made.
Tim Davis, a local attorney, immediately sent a formal cease and desist letter to the Wylie ISD board president, Stacie Smith, on behalf of a number of Wylie ISD residents and taxpayers.
“Over the weekend, Wylie residents received a flyer, paid for by WISD, regarding issues relevant in the now-occurring trustee elections,” Davis wrote.
“The content and the timing of this material underscores that it is political advertising meant to support certain candidates and oppose others,” Davis continued.
Central to Davis’ claims are several portions of Texas law that directly prohibit these activities by a school board specifically and by political subdivisions of the state more generally.
The Texas Education Code clearly states, “Notwithstanding any other law, the board of trustees of an independent school district may not use state or local funds or other resources of the district to electioneer for or against any candidate, measure, or political party.”
Davis also highlighted a provision in the Texas Election Code that reads, “An officer or employee of a political subdivision may not knowingly spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising.”
The letter calls for the immediate removal of the Wylie ISD website with this content and for the district to “cease all expenditures of public money for electioneering or political advertising.”
The Dallas Express reached out to Wylie ISD through the email provided on the website linked to the mail piece and made several inquiries, including why these topics were chosen, who designed these materials, and whether the district agreed that such activity constituted political advertising.
Thus far, the district has failed to respond.
Michael Schwerin, who is challenging an incumbent for Wylie ISD Board Place 6, spoke with The Dallas Express about these election-eve activities by the district.
Schwerin, a nonprofit executive in his private life, said that the content of this mail piece and the corresponding website are “direct responses to the concerns” that the political challengers to the current board have raised.
He also claimed that from what he could tell, the mail piece hit the entire 75098 zip code as the district opted to use a method of delivery known as Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). With EDDM, the sender does not use a traditional list of addresses but pays the post office to deliver to a whole geographical area.
There are tens of thousands of mailable addresses in the 75098 zip code.
One of the main issues that Schwerin and the other challengers, who he named as Jill Palmer, Jeffery Keech, and Kevin Brooks, have highlighted during their campaign is Wylie ISD’s allegedly out-of-control spending.
“In my work as a nonprofit executive, I have looked into the costs of these types of mailings,” Schwerin said, noting the cost was likely five figures. “This is a perfect example of the extraordinary waste that goes on with the current board.”