Campaigning & Advocacy Do's and Don'ts for Public School Leaders
It is imperative that campaigning and advocacy efforts on behalf of the Quality Education and Jobs Initiative (QEJI), other ballot measures and 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.
- 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 PTAs, 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 2012 election days are August 28 (primary) and November 6 (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.
To see the full guide, click here