KBS Reference Desk: Driving Students to Polls

Q:        One of our high school government teachers would like to take all eligible senior students to the polls to vote during early voting. She has requested the use of a school bus to transport the students to the polls during the school day. Can we do this?

 A:        No. The Attorney General has found that using taxpayer-funded transportation to transport students to the polls does not serve an educational purpose and violates the Texas Constitution.

The Texas Education Code, at Chapter 4, addresses the mission, objectives, and goals for public education. Section 4.001(b) expressly provides that schools are to “prepare students to be thoughtful, active citizens.” The implementing regulations require curriculum in government aimed at helping students “understand the responsibilities, duties, and obligations of citizenship such as being well informed about… voting.” 19 T.A.C. §113.44(c). With that said, in all tasks, schools must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and are constitutionally prohibited from “gifting money” when no public purpose is served. Tex. Const. art III §52(a). In this instance, the Attorney General has determined that “a court would likely conclude that the transportation serves no public purpose of the school district” and thus violates the Texas Constitution. The analysis focused on the Election Code, which “makes no provisions for student observers, and a school district would have no authority to provide educational instruction inside a polling location while voting takes place.” Tex. Atty Gen. Op. KP-0177. Hence, the AG has advised against a public school district using ISD transportation or staff time to transport students to the polls whether for field trip or voting purposes.

For more questions concerning exposing students to the voting process, contact your local school district attorney.

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