School Districts well versed in how to manipulate Tax Elections Be aware that your local ISD knows all the tricks to pass a hike in taxes.

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Jun 16, 2017 No Comments ›› admin

By Lynn Woolley

No branch of government is better at getting what it wants than school districts.

What ISD’s want right now more than anything else is money.

The problem they face is that President Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott are sensitive to the plight of taxpayers. There is another way. It’s a TRE – a Tax Ratification Election.

This where the ISD goes to the people and asks for a voluntary tax increase. 

Nearly 180 teachers at the Dallas School District ditch class to hit the picket line to raise awareness about their lack of contract issues. Nov. 14, 2016. Dallas Morning News.

We recently wrote about a TRE that failed in Frisco. But school officials rarely lose. Watchdog Dave Lieber says any form of political advocacy on the part of the schools is illegal. But they use other means to pass a vote – stuff like strange election dates, temporary polling places, and outright scare tactics. If your district conducts a TRE, and you agree with it – vote for it.

But be aware that your local ISD knows all the tricks to pass a hike in taxes.

Dallas schools may be bracing for a TRE.

On June 14th, Dolores Sosa Green wrote an impassioned plea for a TRE on the op-ed page of the Dallas Morning News.  Green is chief executive of an organization called “Trinity River Mission,” an afterschool non-profit. She is part of the school bureaucracy. She wants a 13-cent tax ratification election to be held for the DISD.

She is not happy with current leadership nationally, or in the State of Texas:

We now know with certainty that our state legislators, the president and the education secretary don’t care to give public schools additional funding that would allow school districts like Dallas ISD to provide an equitable and excellent education to all of our children. It’s time for Dallas ISD to find its own funding, and for trustees to consider a 13-cent tax ratification election, and not a tax swap or anything less.

She goes on to say it’s for the children – AND, it would be racist not to approve it.

Dolores Sosa Green

If we don’t succeed, I’m afraid for our kids’ futures and even more so for our poorest students, who are mostly black and brown children.

In a single paragraph, she manages to attack President Trump – and you, if you dare to vote against a 13-cent tax hike for Dallas schools.

If President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to public school funding are any indication, the fate of education during the next three years is direly uncertain. The stakes are too high for our kids and our district to fail to approve a 13-cent TRE. For Dallas ISD trustees to deny voters the right to decide would be like placing targets directly on our children’s backs.

Read that last graph again, and think about the violence the Left engages in. But she is accusing taxpayers who disagree with her of putting targets on our children’s backs. This is a typical left-wing tactic.

Speaking of liberal tactics…

Dave Lieber

Nobody is better than Dave Lieber at pointing out the ways that school districts get their way. He writes that ISD’s have several ways to tilt a tax election – even when most of the people oppose it.

Note that this is in spite of state law that prohibits school officials from taking sides in a TRE, even though it’s the ISD board that calls it. The schools may not use slogans like “for the children,” – which may explain why Ms. Green’s article saw print. She probably doesn’t fall under the law, and besides, no TRE in Dallas has been called so far.

Additionally, schools may not use taxpayer money to purchase any type of political advertising. The Texas Ethics Commission says that any type of advocacy on the part of schools is a Class A misdemeanor. But, on the own time, Ms. Green can write what she wants and the Morning News is free to publish it.

What schools CAN do – and often do.

Lieber has a nice list of ways the ISD’s use to get around the law. They include:

• Calling the election on a strange date – such as a special election a week or two after a major election. The thought is that few people outside the education community will show up.
• Making a taxpayer-funded video for social media – under the guise of explaining district finances and hoping people will connect it to the TRE election.
• Superintendents doing a daily analysis to see who has voted. This tells them what groups need to be targeted.
• Principals doing get-out-the-vote emails. These mails don’t take sides – but they go to identified voters that the schools want to push to the polls.
• Good old left-wing scare tactics. This involves announcing in emails that budget cuts may be on the way – stuff like pay freezes for teachers, elimination of minor sports in middle school, cuts in fine arts, and even threatening pay-to-play for student athletes as Frisco is looking at doing. They may also threaten to cut back or eliminate bus service, increase school lunch prices, increase class sizes, or even lay off teachers.
• Note, too, that ISD’s will often be able to use non-school personnel to establish a PAC so that advocacy advertising can be done.
• Service clubs like Rotary and Lions will almost always allow the ISD to make a presentation. The way this works is that the ISD uses a PowerPoint to explain the election – then, some member of the club (not associated with the schools directly) makes an urgent plea for a yes vote. There rarely is any opposing viewpoint.

These are actual examples.

The idea is to insinuate that it will be a dark day for students if the taxpayers dare to turn down a TRE. Remember, Frisco did turn one down, and the School Board retaliated. They threatened to charge student athletes to play – and they will let four newly constructed schools sit empty for a year.

The pizza analogy. 

Beware if they tell you that the typical tax increase for your local TRE will cost the average family the cost of a pizza. They probably mean “per week,” and it does mount up. That’s a lot of pizza.

So what to do if your district calls a TRE?

First, take an objective look. If your district has been a good steward of taxpayer money, hasn’t called too many bond issues, and isn’t over its head in debt – then you might decide it deserves the extra money. If your school is strong is teaching the basics and is a successful ISD, then reward it with a yes vote.

If your ISD has loaded with failing schools, and if your district is up to its neck in bond debt – then handing overt more money may be foolish. In any case, be wary of the tactics the ISD uses to push the election through.

Just because those tactics are legal doesn’t mean they are ethical.

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