School Districts Should Stop Using Tax Dollars to Support Ballot Measures - Liberty Justice Center

School Districts Should Stop Using Tax Dollars to Support Ballot Measures

Should a school district be allowed to use your tax dollars to promote a ballot measure that would raise sales taxes?

Of course not. In fact, the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act requires all units of local government, including school boards, to adopt policies prohibiting their officials and employees from using government resources for political activities.

Unfortunately, some school officials across the state either are unaware of this requirement or have chosen to ignore it.

Recently, the superintendent at Mount Olive Community School District #5 in Macoupin County posted a blog entry on the school district’s website promoting the purported benefits of a ballot initiative that Macoupin County residents will vote on this November. If passed, it would increase the county’s sales tax by 1 percent.

The blog post extolled the supposed benefits of the sales-tax hike without recognizing any problems or criticisms of such an increase. The blog entry also stated that the superintendent would be available to speak to members of the community, to speak at club or organizational meetings and to answer any questions anyone had about the initiative.

When the Liberty Justice Center looked into the matter, we found that the school district had not adopted any rules against using school resources for political activity as state law requires. So we wrote a letter to the superintendent informing him that the school was not complying with the law and that his blog post likely constituted misappropriation of taxpayer resources.

The result: the superintendent has assured us that the School Board will consider a proposed draft of rules against using taxpayer dollars for political activity at its Oct. 15 meeting and will likely adopt them at its following meeting on Nov. 12.

And that blog post pushing the sales tax hike? It’s gone.

School district officials and employees should not use taxpayer resources to promote political candidates and ballot initiatives, especially when those campaigns have a direct financial benefit to the school officials and employees. To be sure, government officials and employees do have a right to advocate for campaigns and candidates and otherwise engage in the political process. But they should do so on their own time and with their own resources, not those of taxpayers.

Other school districts and units of local government should ensure they have adopted policies as required by the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act so that government officials and employees do not use taxpayer resources to engage in political campaigns.

If they don’t, we’ll be there to remind them.

Jeffrey Schwab is a staff attorney with the Liberty Justice Center

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