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Legal Constraints on School District Political Activities Regarding Proposition 30

School districts must be cautious not to use district resources in violation of the Education Code when taking action regarding Proposition 30

As you are aware, should Proposition 30 pass in the November 2012 election, it will have potentially significant positive impacts on education funding in California. Consequently, many school districts have expressed an interest in the promotion of Proposition 30, either directly or through requests from various interest groups to disseminate materials on Proposition 30 on district campuses.

School district interest in Proposition 30 is quickly becoming a matter of considerable controversy in the media. Several newspapers have published articles that draw attention to and question the propriety of various school districts’ actions regarding the measure, such as correspondence sent to students’ homes and board resolutions. The media has specifically focused on the California Education Code’s prohibition of the use of school district resources for the urging of the passage or defeat of any ballot measure.

Due to legal constraints on school district political activity, a school district’s actions related to Proposition 30 may lead to potential litigation. Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has already threatened to file a lawsuit against California State University (“CSU”) based on a draft letter to CSU applicants discussing the possible benefits to the applicants should Proposition 30 pass.

Education Code section 7054 (“Section 7054”) prohibits the use of any school district “funds, services, supplies, or equipment … for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure.” The purpose of Section 7054 is to protect against the improper distortion of the democratic electoral process by the selective use of public funds to bestow unfair advantage on one of several competing factions. Section 7054 allows school districts to provide “a fair and impartial presentation of relevant facts to aid the electorate in reaching an informed judgment regarding the bond issue or ballot measure.” A violation of Section 7054 carries with it criminal penalties.

School districts must exercise extreme caution not to violate Section 7054 or other laws when involved in activities concerning political issues such as the impact of Proposition 30. Please contact Kingsley Bogard if you would like further information.

If you would like more specific information about the budget or suspended mandates, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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