The Texas Education Agency launched a second investigation into Fort Bend ISD, responding to complaints of the district’s conduct leading up to the November 2023 election, according to a June 27 news release from the district.

The complaints allege FBISD “unlawfully incentivized students and staff to vote” in the voter-approval tax rate election, or VATRE, as well as engaged in electioneering, per the release.

“The district will fully cooperate with TEA’s investigation,” FBISD Superintendent Marc Smith said in the release. “We are dedicated to being transparent and will provide all requested information.”

The backstory

In a tweet last October, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, publicly criticized the district administration’s efforts to encourage employees to vote in the election through nonmonetary incentives, Community Impact reported.

He stated districts "must be careful not to violate state law or the spirit of the law" by incentivizing employees with a “wear blue jeans” day if they voted, according to the tweet.

Although FBISD officials said in a statement at the time that they disagreed the incentives violated state law, they “pivoted away” from the efforts, Community Impact reported.

It's unclear as of press time who filed the electioneering complaint with the TEA. Community Impact reached out to FBISD for more information on the investigation, but Sherry Williams, director of strategic communications for FBISD, said she did not have any additional information as of press time.

What else

The TEA announcement comes amid the agency’s other ongoing investigation into FBISD, which relates to a complaint that some trustees violated the Texas Open Meetings Act during the dismissal of former Superintendent Christie Whitbeck last year, per the district’s release.

Former FBISD trustee Kristen Davison Malone filed the complaint with the TEA in December following Whitbeck releasing her letter of intent to retire in early December, Malone confirmed in an April 22 statement to Community Impact.

In her complaint, Malone alleged former board President Judy Dae began discussing a possible leadership change with her starting in August.

FBISD board officers and Dae publicly refuted Malone’s TOMA violation complaint in an April 5 emailed statement, with Dae saying she only said she believed the board’s majority would support a decision to change superintendents, not that she had the votes to support it, Community Impact reported.

Dae did not seek re-election in May, and Malone was ousted in the election by former trustee Kristin Tassin, who was appointed board president by trustees.

“It is a new day in Fort Bend ISD with a new administration,” Tassin said in the district’s release. “Our board intends to work with Dr. Smith to ensure our district fully cooperates with the TEA and is transparent with our community.”