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May the Fourth Be with You at the Polling Place

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 4/30/2024 | Author: Heather Sheffield

Texas educators need to be aware of two elections in May. The first election is this Saturday, May 4. Early voting ends Tuesday, April 30, so if you haven’t already voted and aren’t able to get out to vote today, please make a plan to vote on Election Day this Saturday. 

Depending on where you live, you may have school board trustee positions, bonds, and appraisal district board elections on your ballot. These votes are extra-important to educators! School board trustees set the school district tax rate and vote to approve bonds for placement on the ballot for consideration by the voters in your community. Trustees set the tone for the district by hiring and firing the superintendent. They also vote on district policy; set district goals; and approve curriculum, contracts, and overnight field trips, among other things. School board trustees also approve raises and other employment benefits for district employees! You want to be sure the people on your district’s board will advocate not only for the students with the loudest parents but also for the staff in our amazing public schools. 

If you have a school bond on your ballot, look to see what is being proposed. Keep in mind that funding to pay for school district budgets is derived from two sources: Maintenance & Operations (M&O), which covers day-to-day operations, and Interest and Sinking (I&S), which covers bond/debt services. M&O taxes are the source of funds for district employee salaries, the largest component of all school district budgets. In most districts, around 85% of the entire M&O budget goes to staff compensation. School bonds typically cover new construction, major renovation and repair projects, and, more recently, larger technology purchases. Unlike M&O funding, which is spent at the administration’s discretion with board approval, bonds allow voters to approve a specific group of projects to be completed for a set amount of funding. Because voters approve bonds for a specific purpose, for the most part bond dollars are not transferable to projects or uses outside the bond. This includes teacher salaries, which cannot be paid out of bond money. If you hear campaign ads about a district building a football stadium instead of paying their teachers, don’t let the political rhetoric fool you. You know better. Teachers can only be paid out of M&O funds, not I&S bond dollars. 

On most ballots, you will also vote for people running for the appraisal district. The appraisal district is responsible for determining the value of all property within the taxing district for property tax purposes. Having accurate appraisals is an extremely important factor in school district budgeting. Despite the district having no control over the appraisal process, inaccurate appraisals can result in the state penalizing the district. 

As you can tell, public education is always on the ballot, whether it seems like it or not. 

To find your polling location, who/what is on your ballot, and more, as well as to print a sample ballot (remember, you can’t use your phone in the voting booth!), visit vote411.org

If you are one of the very important people who have a primary runoff election in your area, you need to vote again in late May to help save one of our pro-public education legislators. Early voting runs May 20–24, or you can vote on Saturday, May 28. Several of our pro-public education legislators are in runoffs, so it’s very important to turn out to vote for them so they can continue to stand up for public schools. The Texas Tribune has developed a search tool you can use to find out if there is a state- or federal-level primary runoff on your ballot. Use this tool to find out if you need to vote again May 28. 

Thanks for your continued civic engagement! 


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