GOP candidates in North Texas House District discuss school choice and public education
Laura Hill, Cary Moon and Nate Schatzline are in the running to replace Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), who is running for Tarrant County District Attorney.
The district covers parts of Arlington, Fort Worth, and other surrounding towns. It includes parts of several school districts including Fort Worth ISD, Northwest ISD, Keller ISD, and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD.
Applicants were asked about issues such as the response to COVID-19 and its impact on students, standardized testing, teacher salaries and school choice. The candidates agreed on many items, with some notable differences, particularly on the handling of vouchers.
Hill, who previously served as mayor of Southlake, in the House 98 district, touted his experience as a local civil servant in his opening statement. She said the election was about “the future” and that she supported public schools, with two of her three children having been educated in the public school system.
She referenced several student organizations she helped start, including SPARK – Students and Parents Against Risks to Our Children. This organization has run more than 50 programs on “tough topics,” including eating disorders, drug addiction, and other societal issues.
Hill said she was proud to start Southlake Kids in Leadership (SKIL), a coordinated program between Carroll ISD, the Southlake Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Southlake to teach high school juniors how they can make a meaningful change in their community. The program is not open to private school or homeschool students.
Although it was not mentioned on the forum, Hill was the subject of a complaint by the other candidates who say that she is not a local resident, although she claims so. She and her husband, Joe McSweeney, own a home worth over $1 million in Southlake, which also has a homestead exemption under the Tarrant Assessment District recordings. Only a homeowner’s primary residence can qualify for a homestead exemption, Texas Comptroller’s website States.
Moon, who served on the Fort Worth City Council for seven years, began his remarks by mentioning that he has lived in the district for 20 years and has a long-term commitment to the area.
“Experience is what sets me apart,” Moon said.
He touted his experience working with area school districts to secure block grants for after-school and summer reading programs. He also said he understands the property tax challenges homeowners face.
the moon was stopped in October 2020 for drunk driving. In November 2021, he was charged with having violate the terms of his probationary period.
Schatzline pointed out that he is the only candidate in the race with work experience in education. He said he worked as an economics professor in college, coached football and helped start mentorship programs at area schools.
Currently, he is the Director of Operations for The Justice Reform, an anti-human trafficking organization.
Schatzline has been endorsed by the Tarrant Republican Club PAC, the Keller Republican Club, and Texas Values.
Candidates were asked a series of questions about education issues, starting with how the state can play a role in addressing the challenges of learning losses due to COVID-19 shutdowns.
Hill used his time to mention that teachers need a pay rise, noting that the shortage of teachers and the difficulty in retaining teachers may be due to salary issues.
“The state can incentivize teachers, especially in rural areas,” Hill noted.
Moon began by saying he believed the COVID-19 pandemic had raised alarm bells about government overreach and the erosion of civil liberties. He also said that the reading curriculum must take priority over certain “social learnings”.
Schatzline said he was one of the educators forced to go “virtual” in 2020 and it was difficult to keep students engaged.
“The virtual is not an evil, but it can only be a complement”, he added. “Students need to have healthy interactions and that can only happen in person.”
All candidates agreed that teachers are not paid enough.
Moon said he was able to work on budgeting and operational efficiency to find funds for teacher salaries and benefits.
Schatzline said he would use the Texas surplus fund to help ease some of the local school district’s debt load so they can raise wages.
Hill mentioned the allocation of teacher incentives passed in the last legislative session as a good development, but said the legislature could do more.
“Teachers need to be edified,” she said.
Standardized tests were discussed at the forum and all candidates agreed that STAAR should not be a one-size-fits-all assessment tool. In addition, all mentioned that parents should have a say in the education of their children.
The biggest differences occurred when school choice and vouchers were increased.
Moon said he supports good ones with accountability standards where parents don’t have a choice of a good public school. “Parents need options,” he said. He stressed that underperforming schools must be held accountable.
Schatzline also supports vouchers and said he was endorsed by the Texas Home School Coalition for the position. He said vouchers should come with accountability, but local public schools also need accountability.
“Parents should always have the final say in their child’s education,” he added.
Hill stressed that the first priority must be to public schools. “It’s our promise to parents,” she said.
Hill has “no problem with charter or magnetic schools in the district” as long as they are held to the same standards as public schools and not operated for profit.
She added that she is open to some sort of tax relief if the parents find themselves in a situation, such as a need for special education, where the child cannot be educated in the public school system. Hill said she has a child with special needs who attends a private school.
Early voting begins February 14, and election day is March 1.