It’s no secret that Texas routinely ranks near the bottom for voter turnout. Local elections in particular produce some of the lowest turnout.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Our public schools can play a foundational role in cultivating informed citizens. As a school board member, you can promote and protect a culture of voting with tips and resources from TASB.
What can school districts do to promote the right and responsibility of voting?
The most important step your board can take to improve civic engagement is to increase voter turnout in the district. The first step is to pass a resolution directing your district to promote a culture of voting.
The resolution encourages maximum participation by:
- District employees
- Eligible students
- All eligible members of the community.
Download TASB’s sample resolution (pdf) for creating and supporting a culture of voting.
Download Sample Resolution
Why should school districts promote a culture of voting?
Believe it or not, state law requires high schools to register eligible students to vote twice a year. That means about 350,000 young Texans should get the opportunity to register to vote as high school seniors. Yet, to according to a Texas Civil Rights Project report (pdf), more than 180,000 in the last two years have not registered to vote.
These students join the ranks of the many parents, district staff, and other community members who don’t vote.
Public schools are called to produce good citizens. The framers of the Texas Constitution understood that public education is important to a healthy democracy. They wrote it into the Texas Constitution:
- “…it is the duty of the Legislature to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of free public schools…”
- “… a general diffusion of knowledge is essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people.”
Creating a culture of voting is educational. The State Board of Education (SBOE)-approved Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for K-12 social studies include:
- Civic engagement
As a trustee, advocacy is a duty. The obligation is established by the SBOE in its Framework for School Board Development.
Related: How Grassroots Advocacy Is Rapidly Changing
Is promoting a culture of voting legal?
There is no law that prohibits school districts from engaging in get-out-the-vote efforts or advocating for the interests of public schools. However, in recent elections, some groups have tried to conflate civic engagement with political electioneering, which is prohibited by law.
To avoid political electioneering with district funds, keep the following in mind:
- Do share factual information on district social media and in district newsletters about:
- Voter registration information and deadlines
- Polling locations
- Dates and hours of voting
- Do advocate for the interests of Texas public education, and encourage students, staff, and parents to vote.
- Don’t campaign or advocate for:
- A specific candidate
- A political party
- A specific ballot measure
Promoting a culture of voting is not only legal, it’s a duty you should feel proud and confident in fulfilling.
Here are some key resources from the TASB School Law eSource that can provide more in-depth information on the legal aspects of advocacy: