Kansas law places restrictions on the activities that government officials may undertake with regard to ballot measures such as the Wichita school bond issue question on the November 4, 2008 ballot. A page at the USD 259 website titled “Educate, Don’t Advocate” explains the behavior that USD 259 personnel may, and may not, undertake with regard to promoting the bond issue.
Whether this law is wise is open for discussion. Certainly USD 259 has abundant taxpayer-funded resources at its disposal for promoting the bond issue, as evidenced by the handouts printed by the thousand, the banners everywhere, and by USD 259 personnel attending various meetings and debates. Citizen groups that oppose the bond issue can’t tap the taxpayer for their efforts, even if they were “informational” only.
So what about USD 259’s educational and informational efforts regarding the bond issue? Are their informational pieces neutral, in the spirit of “educate, don’t advocate?”
Here’s some evidence to help us decide: When Citizens Alliance for Responsible Education (CARE) — an advocacy group explicitly in favor of the bond issue — wants to supply information to convince voters to vote “yes” on the bond issue, they link to information on USD 259’s website.
I’m sure that CARE wouldn’t link to this material if they didn’t think it made the case for voting “yes” on the bond issue. I think we can conclude that CARE thinks it advocates for the bond issue.
By the way: shouldn’t information and educational material present both sides of an issue? I haven’t found any of USD 259’s material that even hints that this bond issue might not be needed, or that it might not need to be so large, or that alternatives to some parts of it exist.
The reference to ‘USD 259 having abundant taxpayer-funded resources at its disposal to finance thousands of handouts and banners to promote the bond issue’ is blatantly false. The money for these materials came from a corporate fund raising campaign.
Regarding USD 259 personnel attending various meetings and debates – that is their job. They have to answer questions from the public in order for the public to be informed on the reasons why 259 feels this bond issue is important.
I know of at least one school that was handing out “Vote Yes” yard signs during parent teacher conferences!