“You want people who are capable of understanding pretty big numbers, and understanding what the tradeoffs are, what’s a good risk and what’s not," says John Chamberlin of a recent investigation of Detroit school board candidates that found that more than half had experienced significant financial problems. "On the whole, the ability to fight your way through a budget is an important skill.”
The investigation of Detroit school board candidates’ financial history was a collaboration between reporters from the Detroit Free Press, Fox 2 Detroit, Bridge Magazine, and WDET Detroit Public Radio. The results of the investigation were released today in the Detroit Free Press article, “Detroit school board candidates: Many foreclosures, bankruptcies, lawsuits.”
Of the 63 candidates running for Detroit school board, the reporters note that 36 “have had either a bankruptcy, a foreclosure or lien for unpaid taxes, or been sued for unpaid debts," and that "More than a dozen of them have experienced more than one type of financial setback.”
This election is particularly high-stakes, as the Michigan legislature passed a $617 million restructuring plan for the Detroit Public Schools this year. If the district operates deficit-free for three years, full local control will be returned to a school system that has been under state oversight for 14 of the last 17 years.
While Chamberlin notes that some candidates may have been impacted financially by circumstances outside their control, he says that “Making decisions about the budget is extremely important, and you want people who are up to the job.”
Access the database on the Free Press website for more information about each of the candidates and the results of the two-month-long investigation.
John R. Chamberlin is a professor emeritus of political science and public policy. His research interests include ethics and public policy, professional ethics, and methods of election and representation.