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AZ School Illegally Uses Children, Taxpayer Dollars to Influence Election

October 4, 2023

Public schools are funded with our tax dollars, and they’re supposed to use their taxpayer-funded resources to educate children—not meddle in politics. But Fountain Hills High School in the Phoenix area used public employees, public property, and even its own students to make a political campaign ad meant to influence an election, in blatant violation of Arizona law.

On September 17, Fountain Hills High School football coach Gary Zauner posted a campaign video urging Fountain Hills residents to vote “yes” on a $25 million bond measure in a special election this November. (These bond measures would let local school districts charge their residents extra property taxes so the districts can spend more money than they’re normally allowed to spend under state law.) The entire video displays the slogans “Vote Yes FHUSD Bond” and “VOTE YES! ‘IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS,’” alongside footage of the football field and other locations on school property. In fact, much of the video appears to have been filmed on school time: during the school day, sports practices, and games.

Even worse, the video features dozens of junior-high and high-school students, dressed in their sports uniforms and appearing with their teams, stumping for an election most aren’t even old enough to vote in.

All of this is an abuse of the public trust. What’s more, it violates Arizona law, which prohibits any “person acting on behalf of a school district” from “spend[ing] or us[ing] school district… resources… for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections.”

While the video is thinly disguised as an “update” about fundraising for the school’s new football field, its true purpose is clear: to influence an election using school resources, Coach Zauner’s official position, and advocacy by students. In fact, just in case the campaign slogans and the rest of the footage left any doubt about the video’s message, it concludes with Coach Zauner urging viewers, “Anytime there’s a bond, vote ‘yes.’”

Public schools have a duty to steward taxpayer resources for their intended purpose of educating students, not meddling in local politics. And when families send their children to a public school, they trust that the school will educate those children, not exploit them as political activists for a cause they (or their parents) may not agree with.

The Goldwater Institute will always fight, in Arizona and around the nation, to hold government institutions accountable, protect taxpayers from misuse of public resources, and keep politics out of public schools.

John Thorpe is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.


After this post was published on October 4, 2023, the referenced video was modified to remove the “Vote Yes FHUSD Bond” and “VOTE YES! IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS” logos from the screen as well as the statement urging viewers, “Anytime there’s a bond, vote yes.” As such, the video now complies with the requirements of state law, and we are grateful for the prompt modifications. 

The October 4, 2023, post also refers to Gary Zauner as a “Fountain Hills High School football coach.” Mr. Zauner is a volunteer football coach with Fountain Hills High School. 



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