MEDIA ADVISORY: SCOTTSDALE SCHOOL OFFICIALS RISK VIOLATION OF NEW LAW, SAYS GOLDWATER INSTITUTE LETTER
School-sponsored materials promoting upcoming bond election illegal
The Scottsdale Unified School District is misusing public resources to promote an upcoming bond election and violating new state law, according to a letter sent to district officials by the Goldwater Institute Thursday. And based on recent legislation that goes into effect next week, district officials could be personally liable for violating restrictions on taxpayer-funded electioneering.
SUSD recently produced a thirteen-minute video and accompanying webpages and graphic presentations that purport to provide residents with what is characterized as “factual information” about a bond election occurring this November. But despite that disclaimer, the presentation uses language that appears to solicit a “yes” vote in the election.
For instance, in a Q&A about the bond override, the district poses the question, “How will the renewal of the…override help neighborhoods thrive?” with the answer “academically excelling schools increase property values.” Elsewhere, the district states plainly, “The SUSD…override can help accomplish your goals.”
Earlier this year, the Goldwater Institute worked with Arizona lawmakers to tighten restrictions on public-entity electioneering. While the practice has long been illegal, a loophole in previous state law allowed some courts to interpret government electioneering to be illegal only if it explicitly solicited a “yes” or “no” vote.
According to the new law that goes into effect September 13, government entities, including school districts, are prohibited from using taxpayer resources to promote, expressly or implicitly, a “yes” or “no” vote in an election.
According to Goldwater Institute senior attorney Kurt Altman, who co-authored the letter, the district is clearly trying to solicit a “yes” vote on the override campaign, even if that solicitation is implicit.
“Simply calling this SUSD promotional material ‘factual information’ does not make it so,” said Altman. “The law is clear: Government doesn’t get to use taxpayer dollars to fund ballot campaigns soliciting more taxpayer dollars.”
The Goldwater Institute letter urges SUSD officials to modify their materials as soon as possible to bring them into compliance with state statutes.
To schedule an interview, please contact Lucy Caldwell at (602) 633-8986 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A copy of the Goldwater Institute letter can be found here: http://goldwaterinstitute.org/sites/default/files/SUSD%20M%26O%20Letter%2009-05-2013.pdf
A copy of the SUSD presentation can be found here: http://susd.schoolfusion.us/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=298231