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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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TEA Investigating School District Tracking Teacher Votes

Education, Featured

Portrait of Corey DeAngelis an education activist and National Director of Research at the American Federation for Children. | Image by Samuel Corum, New York Post

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is reportedly investigating a San Antonio school district suspected of tracking teachers’ votes.

According to documents provided by a whistleblower to activist and National Director of Research at the American Federation for Children, Corey DeAngelis, the school district is accused of tracking the number of teachers who voted in a nearly one billion dollar school bond election.

The TEA is investigating the allegations that stemmed from messages sent out by the principal of a school in the Northside Independent School District (NISD).

An NISD principal notified employees that they “will be expected” to vote for a bond to increase school funding by $992 million. The principal sent an email on April 28 to all staff members stating that the district’s “Central Office will be monitoring campus percentages for employee voting statistics” and noted that an up-to-date list on the number of employees who vote from each school campus is maintained.

According to the email, the school district superintendent, Dr. Brian T. Woods, found it “unacceptable” that “only 7 percent of NISD employees voted during our last NISD Bond.” The principal informed everyone who works at the school that they “will be expected to vote for this year’s Bond.”

According to the whistleblower, Woods sent weekly newsletters to “strongly encourage” staff members to exercise their right to vote. He called the lack of votes “perplexing” and “a shame.”

“If the funds from the bonds… are not made available to us, we will still be responsible for maintenance repairs… In order to save millions, we would have to make cuts to the budget for our general fund,” the superintendent explained.

The Northside American Federation of Teachers (NAFT), the union representing NISD employees, sent out an email on April 20 stating that several employees felt intimidated to vote for the bond due to the district’s communications.

“We would like to make it abundantly clear that it is against the law to instruct employee voters on how to vote or to coerce them into voting,” the NAFT email states. “We have brought this up with the district and are currently awaiting communication on the matter.”

In a statement provided to the Washington Examiner, the district denies the allegations and says the principal’s messages were only meant to encourage voter participation. The school district asserts that the communications were “never intended to be coercive and immediate measures were taken to clarify and correct any messaging that may have been misrepresented, misinterpreted, or miscommunicated.”

Furthermore, the district’s statement says, “throughout this school bond election, NISD has communicated with bond legal counsel to ensure all legal requirements were met.”

This communication included a presentation on ethics given by bond legal counsel to all district leaders. “NISD has utilized common practices and strategies to analyze and gauge voter engagement — always with the intent to educate and inform our stakeholders and to encourage voter participation.”

Governor Greg Abbott responded to DeAngelis’ May 7 Twitter thread by writing, “I have spoken with Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath about this. He confirms that IF these posts are verified, then it is likely a crime. The Education Commissioner will work with the Attorney General’s Office to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute this matter.”

The initiative passed over the weekend with over 57% support.

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