FRISCO — The Frisco United political action group was born out of concern for fiscal conservatism and opposition to the district’s 2016 appeal for a higher tax rate.
So it was shocking to some area residents that the group sent out a mailer about the Frisco ISD school board race that included a call to voters to “Remove Taxpayer Funded Muslim Prayer Room.”
The move even blind-sided candidates Bryan Powell and Jeff Snowden who the mailer listed with big check marks next to their names as preferred options to the incumbents they are challenging.
“I didn’t know anything about it until people got it in their mailbox,” Snowden said Friday. “I don’t endorse any attack on religion and never have. I’m trying to win this race and help the school system finances, which are a bloody mess. Now, we’ve got all these distractions, which are silly.”
Joe Widner, a spokesman for Frisco United, said the prayer room is an example of a lack of prudent financial management that people recognize.
“The two incumbents are not actively managing the school district and they’re spending money on things that I as a taxpayer don’t think is a priority,” Widner said. “The prayer room is just one example. It is one that people will listen to.”
Frisco ISD officials did not return calls for comment Friday. But they have previously said that the classroom at Liberty High School is available to all students of any faith for 30 minutes a day during a teacher’s regular planning period.
The classroom has been provided for about six or seven years since administrators learned that some Muslim students were leaving campus for several hours on Friday for prayer.
“The Muslim prayer room and the fiscal responsibilities absolutely go hand-in-hand,” Widner said. The room’s actual cost to taxpayers, he said, is not important. “They’re holding up the torch of priority based funding for everything, but willing to fund a dedicated prayer room with our taxpayer dollars.”
Snowden and Powell, who are facing incumbents Anne McCausland and Debbie Gillespie respectively, said they filled out a questionnaire from Frisco United in February. The endorsements were announced online April 3.
“There’s nothing in that questionnaire that was sent to me that has anything to do with Muslims and Muslim prayer rooms at all,” Powell said. “Most of it has to do with fiscal policy.”
Both candidates said Friday that they believe Frisco United was correct in its opposition to the district’s failed 2016 tax ratification election. Neither is a current member of Frisco United.
Saturday, Snowden participated in “Coffee with the Candidates,” a political forum at the Islamic Center of Frisco. He thought he did well and said he even was approached for a half dozen yard signs. Powell said he was spending last weekend with family out-of-town, but offered to speak with leaders at the mosque at another time.
“I’m running because I want to serve students teachers and taxpayers. I want a fiscally strong district. I want to unite the community,” Powell said. “I am not in any way for any discrimnation against any religion.”
Early voting for the May 6 local school district and city elections starts Monday.
Snowden said he has a long history of bird-dogging taxpayer dollars. But he acknowledged that Frisco United’s flier has people upset and put him on the defensive.
“This is politics, which is why I haven’t ever been in politics,”Snowden said. “It’s nasty. It’s aggravating. It gets everyone talking about the silliness.”