School choice activist Corey DeAngelis publicized district communications on Twitter Saturday morning that include a message from a principal of a school in the Northside Independent School District (ISD). In the message, the principal asks employees to vote for the bond and says the district will monitor whether or not employees vote.
“Thank you for supporting the NISD Bond 2022. As per Dr. Woods, all employees will be expected to vote for this year’s Bond,” the message reads.
“Only 7 percent of NISD employees voted during our last NISD Bond and according to our Superintendent, Dr. Woods ‘this is unacceptable.’ Especially, because 70 percent of NISD employees live in NISD. We should all be doing our part to vote and to be advocating for our NISD students. Central Office will be monitoring campus percentages for employee voting stats in the next weeks to come and will be expecting ALL employees to vote.”
State law forbids public employees from spending or authorizing public funds on political advertising.
The principal’s message could fall under the definition of “political advertising” forbidden by this chapter, which includes “a communication supporting or opposing… a measure,” according to the Texas Election Code.
Governor Greg Abbott weighed in, saying the message could be illegal.
“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,” Abbott wrote.
Abbott then promised that Morath and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton would investigate.
Northside ISD confirmed to KSAT that the message was authentic.
The bond, which ultimately passed, authorizes just under a billion dollars of debt to finance school buildings and buses. It was the second most expensive bond on the May ballot, right below Forney ISD’s $1.29 billion proposal.
Barry Perez, a district spokesman, said the messaging was only intended to increase voter turnout among employees.
“This miscommunication was immediately addressed by the principal’s supervisor and the principal, a veteran and well-respected leader, took corrective action,” Perez stated.
“The messaging provided to district staff was solely intended to encourage the goal of increasing staff participation in the voting process. This messaging was never intended to be coercive and immediate measures were taken to clarify and correct any messaging that may have been misrepresented, misinterpreted, or miscommunicated.”
Bonds are debt that local governments can use to finance particular projects, often for construction or renovation.
School districts and other local government bodies across Texas, including cities and counties, asked voters to approve a total of $18.5 billion in bond debt on May 7. Historically, voters approve most bonds, although they rejected most school bonds on the November ballot in 2021 for the first time in nearly a decade.
Northside’s bond passed with 57 percent of the vote.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.