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Bonds Override Election
Campaigning and Advocacy Do’s and Don’ts
It is imperative that campaigning and advocacy efforts of candidates, issue‐based ballot measures (including school bonds and overrides) by school board members and public school employees stay within the bounds of the law. Arizona Revised Statutes section 15‐511 (A.R.S. §15‐511) prohibits school districts from using school resources to influence the outcome of an election.
This is what A.R.S. §15‐511 prohibits:
- It prohibits school boards (collectively, as a board) from making statements or submitting arguments in favor of, or in opposition to, a ballot measure. (This does not include the pro-statement required to be submitted and signed by the governing board in an override election pursuant to A.R.S. §15‐481 B.9.)
- It prohibits school employees, when on school time, from activities that would influence an election.
- It prohibits the use of school property including equipment, paper, copiers, buildings, computers, etc., from being used to influence an election.
- It prohibits Arizona school districts from expending funds for membership in an organization that attempts to influence the outcome of an election.
- It prohibits students being given campaign material intended to influence an election or material intended to influence the outcome of legislation. Because this is an area of the law with special emphasis, the best practice is to avoid children taking home any material that might be deemed political.
A.R.S. §15‐511 does not tie the hands of school board members or public school employees, however. This is what the law DOES NOT prohibit:
- Individual board members or school employees not on school time MAY exercise their free speech rights and get involved in campaigns.
- School district employees MAY receive campaign information in school district e‐mail accounts and mailboxes from an outside (non‐school) sender; however, in the case of school e‐mail accounts, such information cannot be passed on to others – including outside recipients.
- Outside groups, including PTOs, MAY organize and use school buildings to have meetings in support of a campaign providing those groups lease the facilities in the manner any other group would be allowed to lease.
- Individuals MAY exercise their free speech rights (politicking, including flyer distribution) at an event in which the public at‐large is welcome, providing that all groups are welcome to engage in such activity and it is consistent with district policy for such activity.
- School districts MAY remind their patrons that 2014 election days are August 26 (primary) and November 4 (general) and ask them to vote – so long there is no attempt to say HOW to vote.
- Board members and school employees on school time MAY answer questions from a factual perspective on the impact to the school district depending on the election’s outcome. (However, be careful here! If facts can be viewed as being overly speculative, skewed or selectively used to further a particular viewpoint, the law may be triggered.)
Frequently Asked Questions about A.R.S. §15‐511
and the Use of School Resources to Influence an Election
Q1: Can a person use their title in support of an issue – say a letter to the editor signed by the superintendent?
A1: Yes, though best practice is to state that the letter is not being written on behalf of the district. The letter should obviously not be written during duty time and no school resources should be used – computers, paper, e‐ mails, etc. – in its production.
Q2: Can you post election info on school marquees?
A2: Yes, you can put the election date and ask people to vote on a school marquee. You cannot tell them or suggest to them HOW to vote.
Q3: Can school employees receive election‐related material in school mailboxes or on school computers or in school‐provided e‐mail accounts?
A3: Yes, the law allows for the receipt of such material so long as the district has a policy allowing for receipt of outside, non‐school related messages. However, school employees cannot forward such messages to anyone or print out such messages on district printers or district paper. A good practice for any messages going to school district accounts is to contain a tag that informs the receiver of the message of the law. Here is some suggested language: “Please note: If you are receiving this message on a school district computer or using a school district provided e‐mail account you may not forward this message from your computer to another’s computer or copy the flyer and distribute under A.R.S. §15‐511, which prohibits the use of school resources in influencing the outcome of an election.”
Q4: Can a parent or employee have a political or election‐related bumper sticker on a car in a school parking lot?
A4: Yes, this is specifically allowed under the Attorney General guidelines.
Q5: Can teachers wear t‐shirts or buttons to school in support of/opposition to a ballot measure? Can board members wear t‐shirts or buttons in support of a ballot measure to a board meeting?
A5: No and No.
Q6: Can community members, parents or school employees pass out material in support or opposition to a candidate or ballot measure at school or at school‐sponsored events?
A6: : If it is an event where the public is not generally invited – like during the school day – parents or community members would have to stay off school premises to hand things out. (School employees could also participate if they were off duty.) If it is an extracurricular event where the public is invited, then the parents (and school employees that are off duty and do not have supervisory responsibilities) can come on campus and pass things out – so long as all sides are treated fairly.
Q7: Can the district distribute factual information about the impact of a ballot measure to the public?
A7: Yes, but facts should be presented fairly, completely and without bias. If at all possible, such materials should stick to the financial numbers closely and avoid editorial comment..
Q8: Can schools send home factual information with students for their parents to read?
A8: The law is very clear that students should never be used in an attempt to influence the outcome of an election. The law also prohibits students from bringing home material that attempts to influence legislation (no lobbying, the only place in the law where lobbying is invoked). For this reason, best practice is not to give any material to students related to the election – even a “just the facts” flyer.
Q9: Can teachers, school staff and administrators discuss their support for/opposition to a candidate or issue‐based ballot measure during the course of the school day or at official events?
A9: Teachers and other school employees do have the right of free speech but these rights are fewer in a work environment. During non‐duty time, school employees should feel free to express their point of view and to gather with other like‐minded school employees who are also off‐duty. School employees should always refrain from expressing their views about the election to students during the school day. If discussing ballot measures before community groups, superintendents and principals should take time off from work if discussing those ballot measures in anything but a factual manner. All school employees can take part in election related activities if off duty and school resources are not utilized.
Q10: Can school buildings be used by outside groups for campaign‐related events?
A10: Yes, as long as the facility is rented at the going rate under the district’s community use of facilities policy. This includes parent teacher organizations that normally get free use for their meetings; if the meeting is to discuss pro‐ ballot measure campaigns (or anti ballot measure as well), rental fees must apply for that meeting.
Q11: Can the district/school have a campaign forum on ballot measures or candidates where all sides are represented?
A11: Yes, and if such a forum is held no rental charges would apply. Advocacy groups cannot rent school facilities for the purpose of advocating for a candidate or ballot position at the same time as a campaign forum.
Q12: Can the band and cheerleaders perform at a ballot measure rally?
A12: Yes, but such a performance must be truly voluntary on behalf of the students and no district provided uniforms, instruments or transportation should be used.
Q13: Can teachers take parent e‐mails and send a pro‐ or anti‐ ballot measure message to them from their own computers at home, when not on school duty?
A13: Yes, if such e‐mail addresses are obtained under a public records request.
Q14: Can a school board adopt a resolution in favor or opposed to a ballot measure?
Q15: Can civics educators discuss ballot measures as part of a Kids Voting program or other type program to teach students about the political process?
A15: Yes, so long as the instructor follows a curriculum that is neutral in its approach. While students are free to voice their positions about ballot measures during such a program, school employees should refrain from doing so.
Q16: Can voter registration material be given out by schools?
A16: Yes, but only if such material is available all the time and not just part of an advocacy effort.
Q17: If a school gives out space to an outside group for free – under the community use policy where the activity supports the school’s educational mission – can that outside group allow campaigning by a ballot measure group?
A17: No. If the school facility is being used without compensation being paid – because the activity is deemed to further the school’s educational mission – no campaign activity can occur since that is, by law, NOT part of the school’s educational mission.
Q18: Do the §15‐511 restrictions apply to charter schools?
A18: Yes. Although charters are exempt from most of the laws pertaining to school districts, they must follow 15‐511 and all of the answers here would equally apply to charters.
Q19: Can pro ballot measure signs be placed on school campuses on election day, if the campus is being used as a polling place?
A19: Yes. There the First Amendment would apply and signs could be placed on school grounds by proponents of ballot measures, as long as they are outside of the prescribed boundary limits of a polling place.
Q20: Can students attend ballot measure rallies held on school campuses?
A20: Yes, but only voluntarily and information about the rally cannot be distributed during the school day or using school resources. (Also, don’t forget that the facility for the rally must be rented under the school’s community use policy.)
Q21: Can districts have a forum where only facts and local impact will be discussed regarding ballot measures?
A21: Yes, but extra care should be taken to ensure that it is purely a “just the facts” presentation and discussion; neutral facts that favor both a pro and con side should be brought out in such a discussion. The safest thing to do is to have an issues forum and have the other side represented ‐‐ then those involved (not school employees on school time) need not worry if a discussion of the facts leads to an advocacy message.
Q22: Can education organizations endorse and support ballot measures?
A22: Not if they have school districts as dues paying members or if school districts pay membership dues to the organization on behalf of an individual member. Education organizations – and other organizations ‐‐ which are not funded by school districts CAN endorse and support ballot measures.
Q23: Can school employees be expected to support a ballot measure in their free time?
A23: NO! Employees cannot be required to support a ballot measure through either expressed or implied directive and no reward or punishment can follow to employees for being involved or not being involved in a ballot measure campaign..
Q24: Can school employees give out information – such as directory information of students or lists of school vendors – to an outside group for campaign purposes?
A24: Yes, so long as that information must be disclosed as a public record should a request for information be made. The request for information should follow all normal channels and go through standard legal review..
Q.25: Can a campaign or school district poll to determine message and targeting?
A.25: It depends on the type of poll. A school district can poll to find out what kinds of projects/expenditures/needs the public supports; the school district cannot conduct a “push poll” designed to move voters to support a ballot measure..
Attorney General’s Guidelines on §15‐511
The Attorney General’s Office has published guidelines to give school officials practical advice on adhering to the law’s requirements. They are worth reading and getting acquainted with. View the guidelines at: School Use Guidelines: School District or Charter School Resources
Contact, Chris Thomas, ASBA General Counsel, Associate Executive Director:
email@example.com or 602.254.1100 / 800.238.4701
District / Charter Comparisons
|District School||Charter School|
|Funds for capital expenses and bus transportation||$654||$0|
The Center for Research and Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University on June 25, 2013, released a study that examined the effectiveness of charter schools. As with the CREDO’s previous study in 2009, the report examines the effectiveness of charter schools nationwide as well as state-by-state. (The 2009 study found a wide variance in quality among charter schools, with students in charter schools not faring as well in the aggregate as those attending traditional public schools.)
The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education released a summary and analysis of the CREDO report.
NSBA: CREDO 2013 Key Findings
NSBA’s analysis highlights that:
- Charter schools are overall more effective than they were in 2009.
- The vast majority of charter schools are no more effective than traditional public schools.
- The effectiveness of charter schools varies significantly from state to state.
NSBA: Arizona Findings
The NSBA summary notes that in Arizona students who attended charter schools experienced negative impacts in reading compared with students at their local neighborhood public school, showing a learning loss equivalent to 22 school days.
NSBA concludes that while charter schools have shown improvement since 2009, it does not necessarily mean that existing charter schools are getting better. In fact, CREDO suggests that a major reason for the charter school improvement is due to the closing of ineffective charter schools rather than improving the charter schools that already exist. However, the study points out that newer charter schools tend to not be as effective as existing charter schools which suggests that opening more charter schools may have a detrimental impact on overall charter school performance.
The NSBA/CPE summary was prepared by Jim Hull, senior policy analyst for the Center for Public Education (firstname.lastname@example.org).
ASBA is committed to assisting member boards in successful implementation of the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (formerly called Arizona’s Common Core Standards). The standards were adopted by the State Board of Education in June 2010 and are now being implemented statewide.
This video was produced by the Arizona Public Engagement Task Force to help build awareness and understanding of Arizona’s more rigorous academic standards in English language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. The standards significantly raise the bar for our students, and focus on critical-thinking, problem solving, and effective communication skills.
1. Share the video on social media or post the video to your own website or blog and share that page.
2. Send an e-mail blast or include in a newsletter article to let your contacts know about the video.
3. Embed the video on your website. Click here for an article on how to embed video.
Are You Ready for Arizona College and Career Ready Standards?
Specifically for school board members, this document provides an overview of the benefits and concerns, as well as a list of questions all school boards should ask.
Myth vs. Fact
Covers issues ranging from how the standards were developed and the role of school boards in their implementation to specifics about their content.
Costs of Implementation
Summary of the results of January 2013 survey conducted by ASBA and the Arizona Association of School Business Officials that show estimated FY14 costs.
Arizona Academic Standards Communications Toolkit
The Arizona Public Engagement Task Force created the Arizona’s Common Core Standards Communications Tool Kit. It is designed to help raise public awareness and garner support for the standards within your community. We encourage you to download the materials and use them as you communicate about Arizona’s Common Core Standards with parents, students, educators, and business leaders in your community. The Tool Kit includes:
- A Letter to the Community
- Overview of Arizona’s Common Core Standards
- Key messages, including an elevator speech and talking points
- Specific messages for parents and families, business leaders, students and educators
- Template Letter for School Leaders to Send to Parents
National School Public Relations Association Communications Toolkit
Search by topic, or by resource type, depending on whether you are looking for specific content or specific ways to deliver messages. All the information included has been reviewed and highlighted as helpful for communicators and leaders to start telling their Common Core story.
FY 2015 Budget
Please follow this link to read a complete summary of this year’s budget.
The purpose of this toolkit is to provide public school leaders – school board members, district administrators and parents – resources and inspiration to create high visibility for our local neighborhood schools – the number-one choice of the families of nearly nine out of 10 Arizona students.
National School Choice Week
|Print Sample Messages||You can edit the following PDFs:
|Social Media Ideas|
|Other No-Cost Samples|
Education Policy Reports
ASBA staff attends and testifies or participates at the meetings of various state agencies and bodies. ASBA provides summaries of these meetings as a member service.
For a complete list of Education Policy Reports, as well as Daily In-Session Updates, please follow this link.
AzMerit Information and Resources
Information and Helpful links