Incumbent John Garza and challenger Philip Cortez are divided on the role and effectiveness of education in their district. Cortez says that quality public education is the key to getting the district's residents on the road to success, and Garza says that state programs do not work and a voucher system would be the best way to make education stronger.
Just over half of District 117 includes parts of San Antonio, but it also covers Helotes, Von Ormy and Lytle, Lackland Air Force Base, UTSA, Texas A&M University–San Antonio and Palo Alto College.
What are you hearing from voters?
Garza: "The number one message to me has been that folks want to keep expenses from going up. Keeping taxes low so that families can open new small businesses, so companies can continue to expand and bring new jobs where we have a huge unemployment rate in our district compared overall to Bexar County, we have a huge dropout rate in our schools. Job readiness training to fill these new good jobs, put these families back to work earning an income, getting off entitlements, having something to be proud about, getting a job, producing, raising their family, buying a home, that's the American dream. That's the most important thing, people want to keep their homes and keep what they have and the folks that are striving for that want to achieve that."
Cortez: "The number one issue I hear at forums or at people's doors is, 'what are they doing to my child, and to their schools? Why are the representatives willing to cut billions of dollars from our classrooms?' It's ironic that my opponent talks about jobs and job training and going back to school and yet he voted to cut those billions of dollars in the last legislative session. Everyone knows that in order to have a qualified workforce, you need a strong knowledge base in the community, and the success of any community stems from the overall performance of the school in that area; families will move closer to a neighborhood, more companies will bring their jobs to that area, more businesses will relocate to support those families, but it all starts with the local public school and the quality of education for that area."
Addressing Poverty in District 117
Cortez: "Education is the key to any successful community, and what I mean by successful community is: strong schools, highly-skilled, well-paying jobs in the area and good housing for families to purchase. Once again it all starts with education and that's the domino that starts off the entire domino effect of prosperity for families that are currently living in poverty. It's important that we give our children and these families the opportunity to attend a quality school, or attend a community college, or a university that's affordable, and that's convenient for them - location wise for them to get to. If it wasn't for Palo Alto College being right down the street from where I was born and raised next to my parent's home, I don't know if I would've gone to college."
Garza: "My opponent is quick to state the obvious; education hasn't served the need of our district. We've continued to pour additional moneys, I'll give an example, I think we had a dropout program that we funded to the tune of over 10 million and it did not drop the dropout rate percentage in any of our seven districts in House District 117. So we're offering solutions and we're offering alternatives. I believe in bringing the first choice to the parents, so we're looking at some choices for parents to possibly - in these schools that are not producing and not being effective, that are over crowded to alleviate that crowding by offering some sort of voucher system. Voucher systems can go to other public schools, they can go to charter schools, but we want to give parents options for education."
Listen to the full show to get more from each candidate.