Attorney General Greg Abbott today released an opinion prohibiting school districts from deducting contributions to political action committees from employees’ paychecks. TSTA views the ruling as an assault on teachers’ constitutional rights to political participation.
The opinion halts a practice that has been going on for years without any noticeable problems. All the deductions have been voluntary, and the TSTAPAC contributes to both Democratic and Republican candidates. The only criteria are strong support for the public schools, teachers and school kids.
Here is TSTA’s official response:
TSTA Public Affairs Director Richard Kouri strongly objected today (May 14) to a ruling by Attorney General Greg Abbott prohibiting school districts from deducting contributions to political action committees from school employees’ paychecks.
The opinion was in response to a legislative inquiry about the legality of paycheck deductions for the TSTAPAC and the National Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education. TSTA is a state affiliate of NEA. The deductions are strictly voluntary.
“This practice, which promotes a school employee’s constitutional right to political participation, has been going on for 20 years without any problem,” Kouri said. “We can only conclude that Attorney General Abbott is playing politics in an election year by impeding teachers’ First Amendment rights. But why?”
School districts make deductions from employees’ salaries for a wide range of purposes, including health care and professional memberships. But a strict reading of Abbott’s opinion indicates that no deduction is legal unless it is expressly authorized by the Legislature.
“Has the Legislature specifically authorized every deduction that every school district makes from a worker’s check? I doubt it,” Kouri said. “TSTA will explore every option available to allow educational employees to continue participating in the political process.”