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Fairfield-Suisun USD  |  7000 |  BP  1160  Community Relations

Political Processes   

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The Governing Board has a responsibility to actively advocate fiscal and public policy that supports the district's schools and the children in the community. The Board shall be proactive in defining the district's advocacy agenda based on the district's vision and goals and the needs of the district and community. The Board's advocacy efforts shall be conducted in accordance with legal requirements. 1

(cf. 0000 - Vision)

(cf. 0200 - Goals for the School District)

(cf. 4119.25/4219.25/4319.25 - Political Activities of Employees)

(cf. 9000 - Role of the Board)

(cf. 9010 - Public Statements)

Ballot Measures/Candidates

No district funds, services, supplies, or equipment shall be used to urge the support or defeat of any ballot measure or candidate, including any candidate for election to the Board. (Education Code 7054) 2

The Board may discuss and study the potential effect of proposed or qualified ballot measures on the district's schools at an open and agendized Board meeting. The Board's discussion of the effect of such measures shall include an opportunity for staff and members of the public to speak on all sides of the issue. At that meeting, the Board may adopt a position or resolution in support of or in opposition to a ballot measure. The language in any resolution adopted by the Board shall not urge the public to take any action regarding the measure.

(cf. 9320 - Meetings and Notices)

The Board's position on a ballot measure, including any resolution, shall be publicized only through normal district procedures and consistent with regular district practice for reporting Board actions. Such publicity shall be for informational purposes and shall not attempt to influence voters.

The Superintendent or designee may use district resources to provide students, parents/guardians, and community members with fair and impartial information related to ballot measures, including information about the impact of ballot measures on the district. (Education Code 7054) 3

(cf. 1100 - Communication with the Public)

In preparing or distributing such informational material, the Superintendent or designee shall analyze the material to help ensure that it is an appropriate informational activity, provides a fair analysis of the issues, and does not advocate passage or defeat of a measure or candidate.

District resources, including email or computer systems, shall not be used to disseminate campaign literature. In addition, district resources shall not be used to purchase advertisements, bumper stickers, posters, or similar promotional items that advocate an election result or urge voters to take any action in support of or in opposition to a measure. 4 5

(cf. 1325 - Advertising and Promotion)

Political activity related to district bond measures shall, in addition to the above, be subject to the following conditions:

1. The Superintendent or designee may research, draft, and prepare a district bond measure or other initiative for the ballot, but shall not use district resources to influence voters or otherwise campaign for the measure.

2. Upon request, Board members and district administrators may appear at any time before a citizens' group to explain why the Board called for an election on a bond measure and to answer questions. (Education Code 7054.1)

If the presentation occurs during working hours, the employee representing the district shall not urge a citizens' group to vote for or against the bond measure.

3. The Board or any individual Board member may file a written argument for the ballot that is either for or against any school measure. (Elections Code 9501)

Legislation

The Board's responsibility as an advocate for the district may include lobbying and outreach at the state, national, and local levels. The Board and Superintendent or designee shall work to establish and maintain ongoing relationships with elected officials, community leaders, and the media in order to communicate district positions and concerns. 6

(cf. 1020 - Youth Services)

(cf. 1112 - Media Relations)

(cf. 1400 - Relations Between Other Governmental Agencies and the Schools)

(cf. 7131 - Relations with Local Agencies)

The Board and Superintendent shall develop an advocacy action plan to define expectations and responsibilities. This plan may include, but is not limited to, legislative priorities, strategies for outreach to the media and community, development of key messages and talking points, and adoption of positions on specific legislation, regulations, or budget proposals.

In order to strengthen legislative advocacy efforts, the district may work with organizations and coalitions and may join associations whose representatives lobby on behalf of their members in accordance with Government Code 53060.5.

The district may provide fair and impartial information about legislative issues affecting schools and children and shall inform the community about its advocacy activities. However, informational materials about legislation shall not urge the public to lobby the legislature, Governor, or state agencies on behalf of the district. 7

As necessary, the Board may direct the Superintendent or designee to draft legislative or regulatory proposals which serve the district's interests. 8

Legal Advocacy

The Board recognizes that some issues are more appropriately addressed judicially rather than legislatively. When a legal issue is likely to set a state or national precedent, the district may join with other districts or parties in order to resolve the issue through litigation or other appropriate means. 9

(cf. 9124 - Attorney)

(cf. 9321 - Closed Session Purposes and Agendas)

Political Forums

Forums on political issues may be held in district facilities as long as the forum is made available to all sides of the issue on an equitable basis. (Education Code 7058)

(cf. 1330 - Use of School Facilities)

EDUCATION CODE REFERENCES

Education Code 7054

Funds, services, supplies equipment; support or defeat of ballot measure or candidate

(a) No school district or community college district funds, services, supplies, or equipment shall be used for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure or candidate, including, but not limited to, any candidate for election to the governing board of the district.

(b) Nothing in this section shall prohibit the use of any of the public resources described in subdivisionČ?(a) to provide information to the public about the possible effects of any bond issue or other ballot measure if both of the following conditions are met:

(1) The informational activities are otherwise authorized by the Constitution or laws of this state.

(2) The information provided constitutes a fair and impartial presentation of relevant facts to aid the electorate in reaching an informed judgment regarding the bond issue or ballot measure.

(c) A violation of this section shall be a misdemeanor or felony punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both, or imprisonment in a state prison for 16 months, or two or three years.

(Amended by Stats. 1995, Ch. 879, Sec. 2.)

Education Code 7054.1

Request for appearance

Nothing in this article shall be construed as prohibiting any administrative officer or board member of a school district or community college district from appearing at any time before a citizens' group that requests the appearance of the officer or board member for purposes of discussing the reasons why the governing board of the district called an election to submit to the voters of the district a proposition for the issuance of bonds and for purposes of responding to inquiries from the citizens' group.

(Added by Stats. 1995, Ch. 879, Sec. 3.)

Education Code 7058

Forum

Nothing in this article shall prohibit the use of a forum under the control of the governing board of a school district or community college district if the forum is made available to all sides on an equitable basis.

(Added by Stats. 1995, Ch. 879, Sec. 5.)

Elections Code 9501

Written argument for or against school measures

(a) The governing board of the district or any member or members of the board, or any individual voter who is eligible to vote on the measure, or bona fide association of citizens, or any combination of such voters and associations may file a written argument for or against any school measure. No argument shall exceed 300 words in

length. The elections official shall cause an argument for and an argument against the measure, if submitted, to be printed, and shall include the arguments, preceded by the analysis, in the voter information pamphlet that accompanies the sample ballot.

(b) Printed arguments submitted to voters in accordance with this section shall be titled either "Argument in Favor of Measure ____" or "Argument Against Measure ____," accordingly, the blank spaces being filled in only with the letter or number, if any, designating the measure. At the discretion of the elections official, the word "Proposition" may be substituted for the word "Measure" in the titles. Words used in the title shall not be counted when determining the length of any measure.

(Amended by Stats. 2010, Ch. 401, Sec. 2.)

1 Note: The following optional policy addresses political activities conducted by members of the Governing Board or district staff acting on behalf of the district. It does not apply to individuals acting as private citizens on their own time and at their own expense. When acting as private citizens, individuals have broad rights under the First Amendment to engage in political activities, including taking positions on electoral measures and candidates and establishing and participating in political action committees.

2 Note: Whether an activity is an appropriate use of public funds or an impermissible campaign activity is a complicated analysis. In Vargas v. City of Salinas, the California Supreme Court created three categories of activities: (1) permissible informational activities, such as resolutions and providing objective analysis; (2) impermissible campaign activities, such as producing or distributing literature that urges a voter to act a certain way; or (3) unclear activities which do not fall into either group and must be analyzed looking at the "style, tenor, and timing" of the activity. The following two paragraphs reflect the court's analysis of permissible activities. District legal counsel should be consulted when there is a question as to whether an activity is permissible.

3 Note: When it is unclear whether a campaign activity is permissible, the court will analyze the activity based on its "style, tenor and timing" to determine whether it involves an appropriate expenditure of public funds. Examples of things that a court might look for include how the material was distributed (i.e., special edition or regular publication), the language used in the publication (i.e., inflammatory or informational), and whether the distribution was consistent with regular district practice (i.e., regular circulation or special mailing). Districts should be cautious and ensure that any such informational material is an appropriate use of district funds.

4 Note: In Vargas v. City of Salinas, the court offered examples of activities which would be impermissible campaign activities, as reflected in the following paragraph. In addition, 2 CCR 18901.1 prohibits the use of public funds for a newsletter or "mass mailing" which expressly advocates the election or defeat of a ballot measure or candidate or, when taken in context, urges a particular result. Because violation of this regulation could result in enforcement action by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), districts should proceed with caution and consult with legal counsel, as appropriate.

5 Note: Both the courts (Santa Barbara County Coalition Against Automobile Subsidies v. Santa Barbara County Association of Governments) and the Attorney General (88 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 46 (2005)) have provided guidance as to the appropriate use of district funds when the district is preparing to submit a bond proposal to the voters for approval. The key distinction is whether the action is taken before or after the measure has been placed on the ballot and whether the activity is directed at swaying voters. Permissible expenditures include researching the need for the measure, formulating and drafting the proposal, and conducting polling and focus groups to assess the feasibility of the measure. Impermissible activities include recruiting and organizing supporters for a campaign, raising funds for the campaign, or hiring a consultant to develop a strategy for building support for the measure.

6 Note: Pursuant to Government Code 53060.5, the district may engage in legislative activities and lobbying, either directly or through a representative, and the cost of this activity is an appropriate use of district funds. Lobbying activities are regulated by the FPPC (2 CCR 18600-18640) and governed by the Political Reform Act (Government Code 81000-91015).

7 Note: Although the district has the authority to lobby the legislature, it cannot use district resources to urge the public to lobby the legislature on its behalf. In Miller v. Miller the court concluded that urging the public was impermissible election campaigning because the activity was directed to the public and not the legislature.

8 Note: An appellate court held in League of Women Voters v. Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee that the drafting of legislative proposals was a permissible use of public funds since it was more similar to the exercise of a local agency's governing authority than a campaign activity

9 Note: When an issue requires resolution in the courts rather than through legislation, it is permissible for districts to use public funds to initiate or participate in legal advocacy. Toward these ends, districts may choose to join with other districts in a group, such as CSBA's Education Legal Alliance which funds and supports litigation in cases of statewide significance to its members.

Legal Reference:

EDUCATION CODE

7050-7058 Political activities of school officers and employees, including:

7054 Use of district property

7054.1 Requested appearance

7056 Soliciting or receiving political funds

35160 Authority of governing boards

35172 Promotional activities

ELECTIONS CODE

9501 School district elections, arguments for or against a measure

GOVERNMENT CODE

8314 Unlawful use of state resources

53060.5 Attendance at legislative body; expenses

54953.5 Right to record proceedings

54953.6 Broadcasts of proceedings

81000-91015 Political Reform Act, including:

82031 Definition of independent expenditure

CODE OF REGULATIONS, TITLE 2

18600-18640 Lobbyists

18901.1 Campaign related mailings sent at public expense

COURT DECISIONS

Vargas v. City of Salinas, (2009) 46 Cal. 4th 1

Santa Barbara County Coalition Against Automobile Subsidies v. Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1229

Yes on Measure A v. City of Lake Forest, (1997) 60 Cal.App.4th 620

Choice-in-Education League et al v. Los Angeles Unified School District, (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 415

League of Women Voters v. Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee, (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 529

Miller v. Miller, (1978) 87 Cal.App.3d 762

Stanson v. Mott, (1976) 17 Cal. 3d 206

ATTORNEY GENERAL OPINIONS

88 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 46 (2005)

73 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 255 (1990)

Management Resources:

CSBA PUBLICATIONS

Legal Guidelines: Use of Public Resources for Ballot Measures and Candidates, Fact Sheet, February 2011

Legal Guidelines for Lobbying Activity, Fact Sheet, February 2011

INSTITUTE FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS

Legal Issues Associated with Use of Public Resources and Ballot Measure Activities, June 2010

WEB SITES

CSBA: http://www.csba.org

Fair Political Practices Commission: http://www.fppc.ca.gov

Institute for Local Government: http://www.ca-ilg.org

Policy FAIRFIELD-SUISUN UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

adopted: September 28, 1995 Fairfield, California

revised: October 16, 2011