KBS Reference Desk: Educator Political Advertising

Q: Our high school government teacher wore a “Vote Beto” button to school on Monday. She says it is to encourage her students over the age of 18 to vote. Is this permissible?

A: Likely no. The Texas Ethics Commission has determined that campaign buttons are political advertising for purposes of the Election Code. As such, a teacher wearing a candidate-specific button while in the course and scope of her duties represents an expenditure of public funds “advocating the election of a candidate,” which is prohibited by statute.

Texas Election Code section 255.003 is the governing statute, which prohibits direct or indirect expenditure of public funds for purposes of political advertising. Examples of indirect expenditures include use of personnel, equipment, email and facilities. While the teacher may argue she is providing civil instruction or that she has a right to free speech under the First Amendment, the State of Texas’ interest in maintaining a politically neutral educational environment outweighs a district employee’s interest in expressing his or her political views to students while the employee performs her job duties. As such, The Texas Ethics Commission, which is the state agency that oversees violations of the Texas Election Code, interprets the prohibition against political advertising broadly. According to the Commission, even conducting a meeting on public property involves an indirect use of public funds. In general, school districts should not allow employees to wear any item that advocates the approval or election of any candidate or measure, nor should a school district host political events or political speeches. In addition, any “rental” of district property should be in compliance with the district’s facility use policy, GKD (Local). Finally, note that noncompliance with the prohibition against political advertising is a Class A Misdemeanor.

Related Posts

Recent Articles

KBS Reference Desk: TOMA Social Gatherings Conventions
June 17, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Volunteers Under Guardian Plan
June 10, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: DOI and Certification
June 3, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: FML Leave Over the Summer
May 27, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Decrease in Compensation
May 20, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Participation in Graduation Ceremonies
May 13, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Temporary Custodians of Record – TPIA
May 6, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Driving Students to Polls
April 29, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Authority to Create New Position
April 22, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Booster Club Raffle
April 15, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Returning a Teacher to Probationary Status
April 8, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Termination of Probationary Contract While On Leave
April 1, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Long COVID and Special Education Referrals
March 25, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Pay During Weather Closure
March 18, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Nepotism
March 11, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: New SBOE Rules on Contract Abandonment
March 4, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Web Accessibility
February 25, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Political Advocacy Prohibitions
February 18, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Pay During Weather Closure
February 11, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: House Bill 2581 Procurement Updates
February 4, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: CDL Waivers for Bus Drivers
January 28, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Interstate Travel Liability and Travel Forms Best Practices
January 21, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: Updated Stay at Home Periods
January 14, 2022
KBS Reference Desk: On Call Employees Over Holidays
December 17, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Holiday Decorations
December 10, 2021