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Week in review: Which school board candidate has landed the most endorsements?

Photo courtesy Brittany Randolph/Flickr

While most of the anxiety you’re surely feeling today is appropriately directed at the presidential race, people who care about Detroit should also be paying attention to the city’s historic school board election.

Voters on Tuesday will choose seven Detroiters to help shepherd our schools out of a difficult period that’s been defined by financial distress, academic turmoil and emergency management.

"Most important will be to choose a majority that wants to look forward, to the day when full democratic control is restored, to the elevation of educational outcomes, rather than one that wants to re-prosecute arguments of the past."Detroit Free Press

How will voters choose? A Chalkbeat review of campaign finance records found that the vast majority of the 63 candidates have raised no money at all and will be entering Election Day without tools to get their message across to voters.

To help you make sense of the candidates, we’ve compiled nine endorsement lists from the city’s major newspapers and political organizations. Read on to see which four candidates made six of the lists, as well as the rest of the week’s headlines. And — please — don’t forget to vote!

Four days away

Of the 63 candidates running for school board, most are running shoestring campaigns — though one union-connected candidate will benefit from $127,000 in campaign spending.

There are also a number of statewide and local school issues on ballots throughout the region. Among the most contentious: the Wayne County tax hike that could mean an extra $385 per student in county school districts.

Three suburban superintendents explained why they’re urging voters to support the measure, calling it “one of the most significant and necessary investments in … public schools in generations.” But critics charge that Wayne County school leaders are misleading voters.

Meanwhile, WDET looked at what the tax vote says about the way we fund schools in Michigan.

In other news:

Endorsement tallies:

In the race for Detroit school board, there are lots of candidates. To help sort them out, Chalkbeat synthesized the endorsement lists from nine organizations — three newspapers (The Free Press, the News and Michigan Chronicle) and six community and political groups: the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce, the Fannie Lou Hamer (FLH) political action committee, Declare Detroit, the Black Slate and the 13th Congressional District Democrats.

Though many of these groups have different agendas, quite a few candidates appeal to endorsers across the political spectrum.

Candidates with six endorsements:

Candidates with five endorsements:

  • Iris Taylor: Chamber, DFT, Black Slate, FLH, 13th District

Candidates with four endorsements:

Candidates with three endorsements:

Candidates with two endorsements:

Candidates with one endorsement:

There are surely other endorsement lists that didn’t come across our radar, but the vast majority of candidates — 46 candidates, or nearly three quarters of the total — don’t appear to have outside support at all.

More From Chalkbeat:

Fixing Special Education

Parents finally get an update about special education reform at Chicago schools

PHOTO: Chicago Public Schools

Six months after enumerating how Chicago Public Schools has mishandled the education of special-needs students, the Illinois State Board of Education has issued a letter to parents detailing shortcomings in the program and how parents may seek redress.

The school district will mail the state board’s letter to parents, and hand it out next week during report card pickup, state education board spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said. The letter is posted in Spanish and English on both the district and state websites. You can also read it at the end of this post.

The state probe, launched last fall, found Chicago schools violated students’ rights by routinely delaying and denying services, such as  speech and occupational therapy, busing, classroom aides, and placement in specialized outside schools.

The letter encourages parents with questions to contact an independent monitor the state appointed to oversee reforms for three years.

It’s not clear why the state took so long to inform parents about the investigation’s findings or their options. Parents have been complaining they hadn’t heard from school officials about improvements.

In early October, Matthews said that the state was finalizing its letter to parents.

Now the state is working with the district and parent advocacy groups to identify students whose rights were violated and may be eligible for measures “to make these students whole,” as the letter puts it.

It advises parents, “if you believe that your child was harmed by the systemic violations identified in the public inquiry, you may have the right to file for due process or file a complaint with ISBE’s special education division.”

To improve special education services, the letter notes, the state has been training district employees about the investigation, how procedures will change, and their roles and responsibilities in special education.

The state and district are training parents about their rights, including a list of low-cost legal providers who can help parents navigate the legal process.

Read the letter below.

 

Payroll Data

Online tool shows who makes the big bucks at Chicago schools

PHOTO: Chicago Public Schools
Former Chicago schools CEO Forrest Claypool made at least $246,154 from the district in 2017.

How much is your favorite principal making?

It’s possible to find out: An online tool offers a look at the paychecks brought home by staff, educators and leadership at Chicago Public Schools.

The Better Government Association just redesigned and updated its public salaries database to provide 2017 numbers for more than 500,000 public workers across Illinois, including at local school districts.

The database shows that last year the Chicago school district spent $2 billion on 49,000 employees who made a median salary of $46,124.

Chicago schools’ highest spending department was the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, which runs the special education program.

The database includes salaries as well as overtime, bonuses, benefits and other forms of extra pay. The Chicago Teachers Union contract lists a base salary of about $51,000 for new teachers, with a pension pickup of $3,546 for a total of $54,199 in compensation.

In 2017, the list of individual earners was topped by Denise Joyce Little, who made$325,999 in total compensation, according to the Better Government Association. She retired in August of that year as senior advisor to former district CEO Forrest Claypool, after 40 years of service at the district, and began receiving payments from a more than $140,000 pension.

The second-highest earner was Parkside Community Academy teacher Sharon Stingley, who made $283,579, and Network 5 schools chief Wanda Juareze Washington, with $246,892. In fourth place was now-disgraced district CEO Forrest Claypool, who made $246,154.

Claypool’s successor Janice Jackson has since gotten a raise to go with her promotion, but in 2017 she had the seventh-highest salary with $206,769.

The database lets users explore the distribution of salaries within an agency like the school district, compare salaries in the same department, and compare the payroll of one government agency to another, among other features.

The association compiled the information with help from DataMade, a Chicago-based civic technology company.