Conservatives funded by a Christian-based PAC were elected to the Keller ISD school board in 2022, putting the suburban school district at ground zero of the book ban movement.

Using a list created by then-state Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth, the school board voted to pull 41 previously challenged books for review.. Some of the books, including the Bible and Anne Frank’s Diary, were returned to circulation; others were not.

The Texas-based PAC had donated more than $600,000 to board candidates in school districts in the Fort Worth suburbs of Keller, Southlake, Grapevine-Colleyville and Mansfield in 2022. The PAC and their handpicked candidates became national news. Every candidate won, and their presence on the school boards has not gone unnoticed.

This year, four candidates are vying for the Place 4 and Place 5 seats on the Keller ISD school board. 

None of the candidates, according to campaign finance reports, have received contributions from Patriot Mobile Action, the PAC operated by Patriot Mobile, a wireless provider that bills itself as the nation’s only Christian conservative phone service.

While growth in the district, with campuses mainly in Keller and north Fort Worth, used to be the biggest issue in Keller ISD,  the candidates agreed top priorities for the district are school safety and keeping politics out of classrooms.

The two Place 5 candidates, including the incumbent, have raised a combined $25,000, while Place 4 candidates brought in more than $15,000.

Place 5

School safety, not books, is the driving force in this race.

Bev Dixon, a retired Navy officer, has been on the Keller ISD school board since May 2017. Her experience and dedication to the district make her the best candidate for Place 5, she said.

Dixon, 53, has served multiple roles in Keller ISD before her election to the school board, including as a substitute teacher, PTA president and on several committees. 

Dixon wants to work on Keller ISD’s connections in the Texas Legislature and ensure lawmakers understand local needs. For example, Dixon said legislators pass bills that affect classrooms, but have not talked to the group most affected — teachers. 

“I’d like to continue working on building back relationships that were kind of set aside during COVID,” Dixon said. “There’s a real disconnect to what they think our needs are, and what our needs actually are.”

Dixon said she has prioritized school safety and has worked to ensure all campuses receive the latest in security upgrades. 

Dixon voted against a policy that would have allowed teachers to be armed under the state’s Guardian Program; the item passed 4-3. She said she supports armed professional staff, such as school resource officers or privately trained security on campuses. 

“I am not for arming teachers,” Dixon said. “Teachers by nature are nurturers. … They’re in the profession because they care about kids.” 

Chris Coker, Dixon’s only challenger, criticized Dixon’s vote against arming teachers.

“You can never have too much protection in place for kids,” Coker said. “My goal is to continue being an advocate for the Guardian program… to get more staff involved.”

He said the average police response time to schools is about three minutes.

“With the Guardian Program, that and additional SROs, we always have people there to protect the kids on a moment’s notice,” Coker said.

Coker, 38, is a small medical consulting business owner focused on lab and pharmacy management.

He said Keller ISD is too focused on politics and infighting rather than the students’ education. 

When students were in school virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents like him saw what was taught in schools, such as racial issues and COVID-19 “fearmongering” – and freaked out, he said. Coker pulled his kids out of Keller ISD for a year and homeschooled them, he said.

Coker pointed to a district effort to have age-appropriate materials available to students as a difference between him and his opponent. In August, when Keller’s school board approved the new policy for evaluating school library books, Dixon abstained.

“Actions speak louder than words, and to me. Those just aren’t appropriate ways to vote on a school board,” Coker said.

Place 4

John Birt and Haley Taylor Schlitz are vying for the Place 4 seat on the school board.

Birt, 70, is a U.S. Air Force veteran and retired vice president of chain/customs compliance at Williamson-Dickie. He’s hoping voters send him back to the school board. He was a trustee from 1996 to 2000.

“I understand the challenges that our teachers face on a daily basis, and I know I can work to ensure that they have the resources they need to provide our students with the best education possible,” Birt said.

Birt wants to ensure Keller ISD teachers are well compensated and have the necessary tools to educate students, he said. Doing that would keep the district competitive with other school systems that also are looking for teachers, he said.

Like Coker, Birt wants education in Keller ISD to be free of politics, he said. 

“We must promote classroom instruction of high academic standards without political bias and focusing on academic programming that prepares all students for the future,” Birt said.

Birt said he wants to strengthen parents’ rights to have a say in their children’s education.

“I’d never undermine the rights of parents, or shut them out of decision-making,” Birt says. “I’d work hard to strengthen parent-educator relationships.”

He said this goes hand-in-hand with promoting community feedback and finding ways to get more parents attending board meetings.

Schlitz, 20, said she aims to bring more diverse voices to Keller ISD’s school board, as she believes it needs a change.

“I’m very excited at the prospect of giving Keller its voice, and filling in the space that has gone unheard and silent for so long,” Schlitz said.

As a former Keller ISD student, she experienced racism and sexism, which led her parents to withdraw her from the district, she said. 

Schlitz graduated from SMU Law as a 19-year-old, and says she’s the youngest Black American to graduate from law school. She adds that this unique perspective will serve students well.

“Students should have a voice in the decisions that are made about their education, and I am committed to representing their interests on the board,” Schlitz said.

If elected, she plans to represent all students, she said.

She criticized the school board’s decision to ban books about gender fluidity, which excluded and made many students feel unwelcome, she said.

“It was so hateful, and it made hundreds of our students feel excluded and not welcome in their own schools,” Schlitz said. “That’s not what we want as a community.”

Schlitz aims to push for better mental health initiatives in schools to create a welcoming and safe environment for all students. Student success will follow, she says.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 19 to correct the spelling of Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth.

Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Matthew Sgroi is the 2022-23 Fort Worth Report multimedia fellow. He can be reached at or (503)-828-4063. Sgroi is a current senior at Texas Christian University, majoring...