Teachers unions are shifting their political focus from a single school board — Detroit’s — to the one that oversees every school in the state.
The high-stakes race for Michigan Board of Education will be decided on Tuesday, and it’s clear which candidate has the support of organized labor.
Judy Pritchett, a Democrat and a former school administrator in Macomb County, drew large donations from the Michigan Education Association ($10,000) and the American Federation of Teachers ($2,500), the state’s two largest teachers unions. That’s roughly half of all funds raised in a race that has otherwise drawn little attention from donors.
Union leaders have apparently recognized the potential consequences of the state board election, which could tip the partisan balance of the board and give the winning party the chance to pick Michigan’s top education official, and shape policy on key issues such as statewide learning standards.
Two years ago, unions pumped tens of thousands of dollars into a Detroit school board race as a state-appointed emergency manager prepared to hand control of the board back to city voters, ending years of state control. This year’s race in Detroit hasn’t drawn the same attention.
Despite a few large donations from the labor movement, the state board race has largely flown under the radar, according to a Chalkbeat review of state election records filed in October. In all, the candidates raised just over $30,000 in 165 donations.
As statewide races go, that’s not a lot of money. By comparison, Michigan’s gubernatorial candidates have already spent $75 million.
With $23,000 raised, Pritchett’s campaign coffers were much fuller than her opponents’. Tiffany Tilley, the other Democrat in the race, didn’t report any fundraising.
Still, Republican groups have also sought to influence the race, donating a total of more than $2,500 to Richard Zeile and Tami Carlone. The largest GOP donation came from the 14th District Republican Committee ($1,300 total).
Scroll down to see a full list of donations to candidates for state school board. Search for a candidate’s name or click at the top of the column to see the largest or smallest donations.