If school districts were graded on respect for laws governing taxpayer elections, the Cave Creek School District would flunk. Its latest transgression involves a May 19 press release about a school district budget override election that the district posted on its website. This release raises serious concerns about the district’s compliance with a state law that bans the use of school district resources to influence the outcome of elections.
A couple weeks ago, the Goldwater Institute sent a letter to the district urging it to withdraw the press release which prominently features comments from the ballot committee LearnYes.org, which is campaigning in support of and fundraising for the district’s November budget override election. Attorney General guidelines specifically prohibit the use of district-sponsored web pages to sway election outcomes.
Just a few years ago, the district’s conduct elicited concerns from the Maricopa County Attorney after similar documents in support of a budget override and bond election were posted on its website. At that time, the district agreed to remove the documents and send all of its board members to a training class on unlawful political activities.
Apparently the lesson didn’t stick. The new press release attempts to skirt the law by directing readers to LearnYes.org’s website, whose homepage implores visitors to “vote yes” on the override.
The district is no stranger to bending the laws governing school-related elections. In April, the Goldwater Institute sued the district, challenging its decision to redirect bond money from voter-selected projects to projects school board members prefer. This school district needs to stop bending the rules and start respecting state law and district taxpayers.
Christina Kohn is an attorney with the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
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