Will the New Detroit School Board Have Any Power?


Chastity Pratt Dawsey (right)

Detroiters will replace their entire school board this fall. More than 70 people have filed to be a candidate for the seven open positions. However, Bridge Magazine reporter Chastity Pratt Dawsey says the state will remain largely in control.

She writes this week in Bridge:

The hard reality behind this November’s crowded election is that Detroit’s new school board will only have as much authority as a state-controlled oversight commission is willing to give it. And so far, the state treasurer’s office, which is responsible for administering the state commission, won’t reveal how much authority or direction it will give the elected board.”

 “A limited board gives us limited power and limited say,” says Pratt Dawsey, who joins Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson to talk about her article.

The state is still going to approve all of the financial decisions… the school board is also there to make educational policies which is something that they haven’t really been doing for years.”

However, is it even possible to make important educational decisions without control over finances? Unfortunately, no, she says. Educational control will be limited. For example, the board wouldn’t be able to purchase new textbooks without state approval. Pratt Dawsey says people may feel, “they’re being setup to fail because they don’t have absolute control. But they will be held responsible at the end of the day for the outcome”.

This year’s candidates will be elected at large, as opposed to past boards that were divided up by districts. Consequently, it is more likely that different demographics will be disproportionately represented in the new board, says Pratt Dawsey. 

To hear the entire conversation, click on the audio player above.

Image credit: Michigan State Historic Preservation Office/ CC

This post is a part of 2016 Elections: Issues & Candidates.

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