Paxton Sues Another ISD Over Electioneering

Texas AG Ken Paxton | Image by Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune

Allegations of school district officials abusing their stewardship of official resources to encourage people to vote for certain policies are coming to the fore all over Texas, with Frisco ISD the latest to be caught in the crosshairs of Texas’ top law enforcement officer.

On Wednesday, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Frisco ISD for electioneering after its government affairs department apparently used its official Facebook page to encourage people to vote for certain policies in the current election cycle.

The suit, seeking civil injunctions to prevent FISD from participating in any further electioneering, accuses the district of putting up three Facebook posts during February encouraging people to vote for candidates that support more spending for public schools and ostensibly against those that support vouchers.

A February 20 post read:

“Today is the first day of early voting! Public education is always on the ballot, especially during the primaries. The Texas legislature determines public school funding. Last session, proposed legislation that tied public school funding to a voucher program failed, leaving Frisco ISD $90 million behind 2019 funding levels.

“Many of the seats up for election do not have competitive races during the November general election, so whoever wins the primary – in most cases – will win the November election. That means candidates we’re voting for right now will decide whether or not public schools get funded appropriately. Make your voice heard!”

On February 23, a post from the district read:

“Very few competitive seats were left after Texas redistricted Senate and House districts in 2021. Redistricting mostly solidified which seats would be held by a Republican and which would be held by a Democrat. That means whoever wins the party’s primary race will most likely be elected in the general election in November 2024. This is why it is so important to vote in the primary elections in Texas. Early voting in the primary election is happening now and Election Day is March 5. Get out and vote!”

The last instance of alleged electioneering cited by the AG, posted the day before the lawsuit was filed, stated:

“In Texas, we have ‘open primaries’, which means any registered voter can vote in either party’s primary. Since redistricting has mostly solidified which seats will be held by a Republican and which will be held by a Democrat, some voters choose to vote in the primary of the party that’s most likely to win in their area, regardless of which party they normally identify with. Early voting in the primary election is happening now, and Election Day is March 5. Get out and vote!”

A statement released by the AG’s office noted that the office was seeking civil injunctive relief even though the violations of the Election Code may be criminal in nature, as a recent decision by the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals prevents the AG from bringing criminal charges.

“Although the Office of the Attorney General is not currently able to criminally prosecute Election Code violations following the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision in Texas v. Stephens, the OAG may nonetheless seek civil injunctive relief to attain a court order prohibiting school districts from engaging in unlawful attempts to influence elections,” the statement said.

The Dallas Express has been reporting on what now appears to be a pattern of public school officials allegedly using their district’s resources to organize votes for their preferred candidates and policies.

Earlier in February, DX covered the revelation that two Denton ISD principals sent an email to their subordinates encouraging them to vote for candidates that oppose vouchers and support left-wing causes like critical race theory. One of the emails even demanded that school staff go vote in the Republican Primary during school hours, during which coverage for missed work would be provided.

The OAG is also suing Denton ISD for electioneering.

In another instance of possible electioneering reported exclusively by DX, Castleberry ISD’s superintendent purportedly emailed her administration on February 19 from her official district email address campaigning against specific state officials including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and AG Paxton, and for other candidates including House Speaker Dade Phelan.

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