Election day is tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 6, and the winners of key races could have far-reaching ramifications for schools in Detroit and across the state.
Who wins tomorrow could influence whether struggling schools are shuttered by the state, whether Detroit schools will have the resources from the state they need to renovate their buildings, and what will happen to children who have trouble reading in the third-grade as a tough new law threatens to hold them back.
Over the last several months, Chalkbeat has reached out to both major-party gubernatorial candidates, and to the candidates seeking seats on the city and state school boards for their solutions to crucial issues like these.
The race for governor in Michigan pits Democrat Gretchen Whitmer against Republican Bill Schuette.
Both candidates answered six education questions last summer, including their views on school funding, access to preschool, making college more affordable, and whether charter schools should get more oversight. See their answers to those questions here.
After Chalkbeat and Bridge magazine published a series of stories called Moving Costs, about the serious consequences of Detroit children frequently changing schools, both candidates responded that one solution could be better school transportation.
And, each candidate sat down for hour-long interviews last month with Chalkbeat and other reporters from the Detroit Journalism Cooperative to answer detailed questions about education and other subjects.
Schuette, the current state attorney general, suggested in his remarks that he will shutter schools that aren’t making the grade. Read his comments on that issue — and many others — or watch the full video of his responses here.
In her interview, Whitmer, the former state Senate minority leader, appeared to throw her support behind Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti as the district competes with charter schools in Detroit. Watch her video and read her responses to questions about school funding, preschool, and other issues here.
Detroit school board
Tuesday will be just the second time that Detroit voters will choose members of the new Detroit Public Schools Community District board. The first election two years ago, when all seven seats were up from grabs, drew 63 candidates. This time around, there are eight candidates vying for two open seats. (Another three will be open in 2020 and two others won’t be open until 2022.)
The board oversees the 50,000-student district, approves contacts, and votes on policies that are implemented by Vitti and his staff. This will be the first election since Vitti became superintendent.
Here’s our rundown of what’s at stake in that election.
To learn about the candidates, all running for four-year terms, watch videos of them introducing themselves and see how they answered six key questions about crucial issues facing the district. Also, read up on who is funding school board campaigns.
Back in September, Chalkbeat co-hosted a candidate forum with Citizen Detroit where voters interact with candidates, speed-dating style. Read about that event here.
State school board
The eight-member Michigan school board hires the state superintendent and sets policy on crucial statewide issues. For example, when the new “read or flunk” law goes into effect next year, the state board will decide what reading level third-graders will need to demonstrate so they can advance to the fourth grade. The board also will vote on controversial new social studies standards, where recently proposed changes have been assailed as politically motivated.
Winners will get eight-year terms on a board that is currently evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Voters can choose among 11 candidates — including two Democrats and two Republicans — for two open seats on the board.
As you decide, check our overview on the race and its candidates, our summary of how candidates answered crucial questions about education in Michigan, and our report on who is funding candidates for state school board.