AUSTIN (KXAN) — Over the weekend, Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that the state is investigating messaging sent out to the staff of a San Antonio school district about a May 7 bond.
“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 said in the tweet. “The Education Commissioner with work with the Attorney General’s Office to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute this matter.”
The messages he’s referring to were sent to one school’s staff in support of the Northside ISD bond that was on the ballot May 7, which would pump $992 million into the district for school improvements. The specific language is what’s being investigated.
The school electioneering section of our election code prohibits school district officials from using public resources to advocate for or against a measure.
Northside ISD told KXAN Monday afternoon it is confident the district has adhered to all legal requirements throughout this bond election.
The statement reads, in part:
“District officials received information on April 28 that messaging sent by a campus principal in an April 18 newsletter was directing staff to vote ‘for’ the bond. This miscommunication was immediately addressed by the principal’s supervisor and the principal, a veteran and well-respected leader, took corrective action. 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.”
Northside AFT, the teachers’ union for the district, said it originally brought the messaging up to the district’s leadership after several members brought it to their attention.
“The reason that we addressed the issue with the district is because, of course, voting in Texas is a right and a privilege. And we support voting in Texas, and we think it is absolutely necessary for public school educators to get their voices heard and vote,” Melina Espiritu-Azocar, Northside AFT’s member representative, said Sunday. “However, folks should not be forced to vote or coerced in any way. And we wanted to ensure that that was not happening to our membership.”
“We are not totally sure how these issues have been addressed at a district level,” she added.
The district told KXAN a statement will be released soon, possibly Monday.
The bond in question did pass, and Northside AFT added the union supported the bond, but also respected its members right to vote.
“We know that that it’s in the best interest of students and of staff and of the district. And it’s necessary to ensure that schools are up kept, and that the funding is available for things that need to happen across the district,” Espiritu-Azocar said.
She added she does not appreciate the attention Governor Abbott was bringing to the messaging drama. She said the state should be focusing its time and resources elsewhere.
“If Governor Abbott was truly concerned about public school funding for public school…the necessity for a bond would not be necessary if public schools were being properly funded. This is just simply one more thing that he can point at and stir his base about its rhetoric,” Espiritu-Azocar said.