Follow the money

Losing Douglas County school board candidates spent more than winners, records show

Randy Mills, a member of the Elevate slate, addresses a crowd of Douglas County voters at a candidate forum. (Photo by Nic Garcia)

The losing candidates in this fall’s politically charged Douglas County school board election spent about $57,000 more collectively on their individual campaigns than their opponents, new records show.

The Elevate Douglas County Slate — which included Debora Scheffel, Randy Mills, Grant Nelson and Ryan Abresch — spent $139,911 on advertising, bank fees and other operations during the campaign.

The CommUnity Slate — made up of Krista Holtzmann, Chris Schor, Anthony Graziano and Kevin Leung — spent $83,419. The candidates, who won handily, also recorded more than $35,000 in in-kind donations, items such as food and office supplies that were purchased for their campaigns by other individuals or groups.

Leung raised the most of any candidate during the waning days of the campaign, $1,817, according to records. Most candidates raised only a few hundred dollars during the last reporting period, Oct. 30 through Dec. 2.

The final finance records from the individual candidates, which were due at midnight Thursday, provide only part of the story. Outside groups including the nation’s second largest teachers union and high-profile Colorado Republican donors spent heavily to influence the election. The committee backed by the teachers union, Douglas Schools for Douglas Kids, in a report also due Thursday reported spending more than $147,ooo in the last days of the election. The Republican committee’s final spending report is due in January.

Americans for Prosperity, a free-market “social welfare” nonprofit that is not required to disclose how much it raises or spends so long as it does not advocate expressly for individual candidates, has said it spent “six-figures” to help influence the election. AFP, which is associated with the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, advocates for more school choice options, including vouchers.

The suburban Denver school district’s controversial private-school voucher program drove much of the debate in the election. The Elevate slate supported keeping the prolonged legal battle around the program alive. The CommUnity slate promised to do away with the program and the legal defense  — a promise they kept earlier this week.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.