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LISD voter initiative receives state’s attention

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LISD  pushed back recently against  Attorney General Ken Paxton’s cease and desist demand letter, which was issued on Feb. 15 to Lewisville ISD and two other school districts for violating Texas law by advocating for a political candidate.

“Your letter was based on your observation with no feedback from LISD, and the District asserts that it would have been extremely helpful for your office to have at least spoken with the District before jumping to the conclusions you reached in your letter,” the district said in a response to Paxton.

Paxton’s letter referenced a video made by LISD encouraging teachers to use their voice and vote for pro-education candidates. LISD has asked for a meeting with Paxton.

“In my opinion, I don’t see anywhere in that video that I tell people who to vote for, and I’m not for sure where the Attorney General is saying that I am electioneering,” Superintendent Dr. Kevin Rogers said.

The school districts’ have received support from state senator José Menendez, who issued a letter saying if Paxton did not retract the “unlawful” cease and desist order, he would take him to court. Another state senator, José Rodriguez, has also come out in defense of these schools’ right to promote voting.

U.S. History teacher Kaitlyn Wilson agrees with Dr. Rogers that voting is crucial right now. Primary voting turnout has already been up since the last two mid-term elections.

“I think, really this movement is just a mobilization by teachers to vote, which, really, everyone should be getting out and voting, not just teachers, but specifically making sure our voices are heard and that we are represented,” Wilson said.

Paxton’s letter also referenced an LISD tweet that read, “We are asking for support from our state Legislature. We’re not getting it. It’s time for change. #TXTeacherVoice.” The tweet was taken down within 24 hours, after LISD was made aware by a local elected official that it may have been “interpreted in a way the District did not intend.”

In a statement the district said, “We dispute any characterization of the district’s get out the vote campaign as anything other than an effort to engage the LISD staff and community in their constitutional right to vote and advocate for themselves.” LISD said they “respectfully disagree” with Paxton.

Rogers reiterated this and stressed the importance of public education.

“Pro-public education is important to me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have dedicated my life to it,” Rogers said. “So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying ‘hey, we have to find candidates that support public education.’ And there are people in both parties that support public education, it’s not a partisan thing.”

Public teachers and administrators across the state have expressed concerns about problems they see with public funding of education. Over the past decade, Texas has cut general funding by 16 percent per student. Texas is ranked second in cuts in the nation, behind only Oklahoma.

Last year, the increases in retired teachers insurance have also alarmed both current and retired educators. Those with families have seen their rates increase dramatically, for some half or more of their pension. These changes are driving some retirees back into the workforce.

“It’s troubling that the Texas legislature continues to defund education or decrease the funding,” English teacher Lauran Popp said. “The state needs to pull their weight; they have not increased funding at the same level that our population has increased.”

 

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LISD voter initiative receives state’s attention