BELTON — The Belton school board has resolved to create a “culture of voting” in the district, both among students and staff.
The Belton Independent School District board of trustees voted to approve the voting resolution in its regular monthly meeting this week. The complete resolution can be seen here: https://goo.gl/Z7rnft.
“By law, our principals — high school principals — are required to promote registering for students who are 18 years old and eligible,” Board President Randy Pittenger said during the meeting. “We’ve been following those laws and doing those things ... but thought it would be a good thing for us to join with other school districts and other public education advocates in encouraging our students, our staff — our employees — and our families to participate in the process.”
The resolution authorizes Belton ISD to continue communicating the importance of voting to students and staff. Pittenger read the resolution during Monday’s meeting. The resolution authorizes the district to create district communications that encourage voting, remind staff and eligible students of voting times and locations, and “encourage employees to use third party tools to learn about candidates’ positions on public education.”
“I think that (promoting voting) is a great part of civic responsibility and teaching our students to be good citizens, and our employees to model that,” Pittenger said. “It really fits with our resolution to teach traditional moral values.”
Some Texas school districts have come under fire for encouraging students and staff to vote during elections when education issues, such as school bonds, are on the ballot. Pittenger later said he questions why anyone would not want to encourage voting and good citizenship in the school community.
“The state law is that we are required to teach civics and teach citizenship,” Pittenger said. “This resolution came out — this encouragement to get students and teachers and people supporting public ed to vote; certainly there are advocacy groups who are promoting that, but without telling them how to vote. Just encouraging people to participate is really a mandated thing.”
Pittenger said the Texas Attorney General’s office has discouraged school districts’ material support for voting.
“Some people who were proposing that schools should transport students or people to polling to help them, and the Attorney General came out with a non-binding resolution, as I understand it, that said that wouldn’t be a good use of school district funds because it doesn’t have an educational purpose,” Pittenger said. “There’s been a lot of pushback on that, saying what would be a more educational purpose than teaching people the value of participating in our governmental election process?”
But Pittenger said Belton ISD has no interest in offering transportation to voters.
“I’m really puzzled why anyone would see that as a negative, that we’re encouraging people to vote, and I would question anybody’s motives who would not want people to participate in the vote,” he said. “Why would they not want us to encourage everyone to participate? That’s what we’re called to do as citizens, to participate in the process.”
According to a district release, the resolution was inspired by the “Culture of Voting Resolution” created by Texas Educators Vote, a coalition of public education organizations including the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of Community Schools.
The Texas Educators Vote website provides a variety of information for educators interested in voting, and includes an “Educators Oath to Vote.”
“I am a Texas educator and I commit to vote in the March primary and the November general elections,” the oath reads. “I will vote in support of the more than 5.4 million Texas school children.”
District spokeswoman Elizabeth Cox said the resolution mostly relates to practices that already are in place.
“The resolution reinforces practices already in place to encourage voting as a part of responsible citizenship,” Cox said. “We promote voter registration at the age of 18 and provide time for our employees to vote.”