Candidates running for local office in the Nov. 6 general election addressed several concerns related to public education during a question-and-answer forum moderated by Southlake Mayor Laura Hill on Wednesday evening at the Colleyville Center.
Among the 10 candidates in attendance were incumbent Texas House representatives Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, for Districts 92 and 98, respectively. State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, was not present but sent her legislative director, Christopher Paxton, in her stead.
Challenging candidates seeking to represent districts of Grapevine, Collevyille and Southlake include Gwenn Burud, Beverly Powell, Steve Riddell and Mica Ringo. Candidates from other districts were also present, including Nancy Bean, Laura Gunn, Jeromey Sims and Stephanie Klick.
The forum covered several topics, but at the forefront of the conversation was the topic of funding for public education. The question of how candidates would approach the issue was first posed to state Senate candidates.
Paxton, representing Burton, began by saying the Legislature has appropriated for enrollment growth and inflation and increased basic allotment as recently as 2015.
“What is changing is the ratio of state funding to local funding, but this only illustrates that [school districts]are taxing and spending more—not that the Legislature is spending less,” he said.
As a note, the school finance formula considers local revenue sources before allotting state funding, he added.
In contrast Powell, Burton’s opponent, said she advocates for increasing the state’s share to fund school districts to a 50-50 ratio, closing property tax loopholes and tasking education experts to reform the funding formula.
“It is time for us to do a strict line item review of our state budget to assess where we might accomplish adding some extra funding to public schools,” she said.
Running against the absent state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, Burud said the funding formula is in desperate need of reformation, and the diversion of state dollars to charter school systems has eroded education funds. She, like Powell, is in favor of closing property tax loopholes to uncover lost revenue.
When the topic came up for state House candidates, Ringo said she plans to make changes in how the state allocates money. Ringo is running against incumbent candidate Capriglione.
“The first bill I propose would be complete and total transparency—that every dollar collected for education is spent on public education and not diverted to other issue,” she said.
Ringo, along with other candidates, also suggested hiring an auditor to review ways to reduce waste and inefficiencies.
Similarly, Capriglione said his focus remains on ensuring local residents see a return on investments in their schools and finding ways to alleviate their tax burdens. Some of his ideas include leveraging the state’s reserves in the rainy day fund and reducing recapture payments to the state.
“I believe that that money should be returned back to the school districts,” Capriglione said, advocating for more local control.
In a separate race, candidates running for Texas House District 92—incumbent Stickland and his opposing candidate Riddell—expressed different ideas for how to approach the issue.
“If you’re looking at a way to kind of shore up the emergencies that we have in public education right now, why not look at the economic stabilization fund—also known as the rainy day fund?” he asked.
The Legislature can use those reserves as members identify better revenue sources and strategies to address needs, Riddell said.
Stickland said he does not support using the rainy day fund, and lawmakers should focus on growing the state economy, which would lead to more revenue for the overall budget.
“If you start spending temporary, one-time funds on ongoing expenses, you set our schools up for failure,” he said.
Voters can support candidates by turning in their ballots Nov. 6. Polling locations, maps and schedules can be found on the Tarrant County website.
Some of the candidates who attended the forum will appear in the following races:
Texas Senate District 9
*Kelly Hancock (R)
Gwenn Burud (D)
Texas Senate District 10
*Konni Burton (R)
Beverly Powell (D)
House District 92
*Jonathan Stickland (R)
Steve Riddell (D)
Eric P. Espinoza (L)
House District 98
*Giovanni Capriglione (R)
Mica Ringo (D)
H. Todd J. Moore (L)