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Two challengers lead fundraising race in Detroit school board election

A political newcomer to this year’s Detroit school board race far outstrips incumbents when it comes to campaign donations.

LaTrice McClendon, a district parent as well as the Detroit community chairman for Huntington Bank, reported about $117,000 in donations, more than half of the total donations to candidates, campaign documents show. for the November 8 elections.

Trailing McClendon is former school board member Iris Taylor, who was awarded more than $47,000. Taylor led the board as chair from 2017 until she lost her re-election bid in 2020. Incumbent Corletta Vaughn came third with more than $12,000 in donations, while the others candidates who filed fundraising records all declared less than $10,000.

Thursday evening, 11 of 18 candidates in the running for the Detroit Public Schools Community District School Board had submitted their donor contributions, offering insight into the prominent figures and everyday citizens who support them. The Wayne County Clerk’s Office required all candidates to submit their pre-election contributions by Oct. 28. A late filing deadline for campaign contributions ends Nov. 5.

Tuesday’s general election comes at a pivotal time for Michigan’s largest school district, where the pandemic has exacerbated a number of challenges. Chronic absenteeism has jumped. Students have left the neighborhood in large numbers in recent years. Young leaders advocate for increased mental health resources and safe spaces. And the district is investing federal COVID relief funds in tutoring programs to address student learning loss in reading.

With more than $209,000 in campaign contributions by the pre-election filing deadline, fundraising for this year’s race is on track to be about the same as in previous school board elections.

Current donation totals for 11 of the 18 candidates on the ballot for the Detroit Public Schools Community District School Board race as of November 4, 2022. Source: Wayne County Campaign Finance System

Two prominent pastors are among notable donors to several candidates this year.

Horace L. Sheffield III, pastor of New Destiny Christian Fellowship in Detroit, donated $6,500 to McClendon and $3,750 to nominee Monique Bryant, co-founder and president of a nonprofit organization. Sheffield could not be reached for comment. But in a series of approval videosSheffield said he supported both candidates because they are district parents.

Sheffield highlighted Bryant’s ongoing efforts to “enhance the educational experience and success of our students.” And he said McClendon “is a parent and not just another politician.”

Another Detroit pastor, Edgar Vann II of the Second Ebenezer Baptist Church, gave $1,150 to McClendon, $1,000 to Taylor, $1,000 to Bessie Harris, a retired educator, and $1,000 to Angelique Peterson – Mayberry, the president of the school board. Vann could not be reached for comment.

The candidates also received donations from executives of the Sterling Group investment and real estate firm, Huntington Bank, several current Detroit school district officials, such as Deputy Superintendent of Academics Elizabeth Cutrona, and heads of philanthropic foundations. leading.

Among the political action committees that have poured money into the race are those associated with DTE Energy; United Auto Workers Michigan Chapter; Rooted in community leadership; and Rock Holdings, a holding company of billionaire Dan Gilbert.

Meanwhile, Protecting Detroit’s Future, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, sent documents in support of McClendon and Taylor. The organization was incorporated in September by W. Alan Wilk, an attorney with the Lansing-based law firm Dykema and a attorney for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s re-election campaign.

In 2020 Wilk incorporated two 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations — Detroiters for Change and Detroiters for Our Children — who have backed Taylor and other incumbents up for re-election. Nonprofits paid for TV spots, digital ads, and billboards. Wilk could not be reached for comment.

These organisations, although legal, have been criticized by campaign finance transparency advocates and labeled as “dark money” groups because they don’t have to disclose their contributors or spending.

The influx of local election spending can “change the nature of who can run and what kind of campaign they can organize,” said Rebecca Jacobsen, a professor of educational policy at Michigan State University, who studies local school board election finances.

But at the same time, she said, such activity can also increase public skepticism, as voters can be deterred from supporting candidates who receive significant funding from outside figures. And while the money is sure to give candidates better visibility, it “doesn’t always guarantee a win,” Jacobsen said.

Ethan Bakuli is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Contact Ethan at [email protected]

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