Many Lawmakers Have Taken Thousands In Campaign Cash From Those Seeking To Influence Detroit Education Plan

A Look At The Campaign Contributions That Have Gone From Detroit Education Stakeholders To Elected Officials Over The Last Two Years

By CRAIG MAUGER
Executive Director
Michigan Campaign Finance Network

As state lawmakers look to reshape public education in Michigan’s largest city, many of them have taken major campaign contributions from groups and individuals who are now seeking to influence the overhaul.

Last week, the Michigan House took its first step toward trying to save the financially-failing Detroit Public Schools (DPS). The House approved bills to appropriate $48.7 million in emergency funds for DPS and to set up a new financial review system for the district.

But more divisive proposals will likely be taken up in the near future as lawmakers decide when local control should return to the district and whether new restrictions should be put on charter schools in the city.

Some groups believe a new Detroit Education Commission should have the power to open, close and relocate schools in the city. But others are vehemently opposed to new controls over charters and want to expand education choice in the city to include private schools.

Below MCFN has tracked six groups that have weighed in on education plans for Detroit and those groups' donations to lawmakers for 2014 and 2015. MCFN plans to expand this list as the Detroit legislation continues to take shape in Lansing.

DEVOS FAMILY ($1.22 million contributed to individuals and two caucus committees)
* This tally features donations from DeVos family members to lawmakers.
* Views are based on February opinion piece by Betsy DeVos published in the Detroit News.

— The state should “liberate all students from this woefully under-performing district model and provide in its place a system of schools where performance and competition create high-quality opportunities for kids.”
— The state “should expand school choice so students could use state education funds at the public or private school of their choice."
— Other potential reforms touted by Betsy DeVos: A-F letter grading for schools; alternative certification for teachers; and a ban on teacher sickouts.

1. House Republican Campaign Committee, $480,000
2. Senate Republican Campaign Committee, $281,000
3. Gov. Rick Snyder, $34,000
4. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, $20,400
5. Sen. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage), $19,000
(Tie) 6. Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Twp.), $18,000
(Tie) 6. Rep. Holly Hughes (R-Montague), $18,000
(Tie) 6. Sen. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy), $18,000
(Tie) 6. Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), $18,000
(Tie) 10. Rep. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek), $16,000
(Tie) 10. Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake), $16,000
(Tie) 10. Sen. Jim Marleau (R-Lake Orion), $16,00
(Tie) 13. Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Rockford) $14,000
(Tie) 13. Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Twp.) $14,000
(Tie) 13. Rep. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville), $14,000
(Tie) 13. Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) $14,000
(Tie) 13. Sen. Goeff Hansen (R-Hart), $14,000

MICHIGAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION ($220,700)
* Views are based on testimony presented to the House Appropriations Committee.
— The plan shouldn’t silence the voices of teachers who spend their days with students.
— The proposal shouldn't fill positions with people who aren’t certified to teach. “This isn’t a solution that is in the best interest of the students,” according to the testimony.
— On the idea of moving new hires to a defined contribution retirement plan, the presentation said, “After years of state contributions designed to stabilize MPSERS, this would undo all that hard work and force districts around the state to pay for the shortfall this would create."

1. House Democratic Fund, $80,000
2. Senate Democratic Fund, $60,000
(Tie) 3. Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), $10,500
(Tie) 3. Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), $10,500
5. Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills), $9,000
6. Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), $7,350
7. Rep. Christine Greig (D-Farminton), $5,500
8. Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights), $4,500
9. Rep. Tom Cochran (D-Mason), $2,850
10. Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), $2,750
11. Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), $2,500
12. Rep. Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser), $1,500
13. Sen. Vincent Gregory (D-Southfield), $1,300
14. Rep. Brian Banks (D-Detroit), $1,250
15. Rep. Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw), $1,150

DETROIT REGIONAL CHAMBER AND POWERING THE ECONOMY SUPER PAC ($106,450)
* These totals include contributions from the Detroit Regional Chamber’s PAC to candidates and from its connected Super PAC to nonprofits and other accounts connected to lawmakers.
* Views based on testimony presented before the House Appropriations Committee on March 4.

— The Detroit chamber supports debt relief for Detroit Public Schools.
— The Detroit Regional Chamber supports the return of local control over public schools in the city. A quick transition to a locally elected school board would help with buy-in from the local community, the chamber says.
— The chamber supports the idea of a Detroit Education Commission. “We need a more rational system for opening and closing schools” in the city, said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

1. Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), $13,000
2. Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville), $11,000
3. Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto), $10,000
4. Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake), $7,500
5. Gov. Rick Snyder, $5,000
6. Senate Republican Campaign Committee, $4,000
7. Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint), $3,500
(Tie) 8. Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), $3,000
(Tie) 8. Sen. Virgil Smith (D-Detroit), $3,000
(Tie) 10. Sen. Goeff Hanson (R-Hart), $2,500
(Tie) 10.  Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), $2,500
12. Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), $2,000
13. Rep. Daniela Garcia (R-Holland), $1,750
(Tie) 14. Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park), $1,500
(Tie) 14. Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), $1,500
(Tie) 14. Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren), $1,500
(Tie) 14. Sen. Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek), $1,500

GREAT LAKES EDUCATION PROJECT ($23,000)
* Views based on testimony presented to the House Appropriations Committee in March.
— The plan should allow parents in each building to vote to remain in the new district or become a charter school.
— Lawmakers should provide scholarships to Detroit residents to use at any non-failing public or private school.
— GLEP opposes the Detroit Education Commission.
— The state should ensure that all school districts don’t pay for $715 million DPS "bailout."

1. Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto) $1,500
2. Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), $1,450
3. Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph), $800
(Tie) 4. Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw), $750
(Tie) 4. Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Rockford), $750
6. 28 different lawmakers have received $500 from GLEP.

MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS ($21,800)
* Views based on testimony presented to the House Appropriations Committee on March 7.
— Solution should include long-term solvency and debt management.
— The state owes it to taxpayers and communities outside of Detroit to ensure money provided to Detroit Public Schools will be used in the most appropriate way possible.
— Any plan should ensure that quality and certified teachers will come to and stay in Detroit.
— State should close the Education Achievement Authority and ensure that charter schools are held to the same standards as Detroit Public Schools.

1. Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-South Haven), $3,500
2. Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), $2,500
(Tie) 3. Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), $2,000
(Tie) 3. Rep. Daniela Garcia (R-Holland), $2,000
(Tie) 3. Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights), $2,000
(Tie) 3. Rep. Gary Howell (R-Lapeer), $2,000
7. Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park), $1,500
8. Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), $1,250
(Tie) 9. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, $1,000
(Tie) 9. Rep. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo), $1,000
(Tie) 11. Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), $500
(Tie) 11. House Democratic Fund, $500
(Tie) 11. Rep. Chris Greig (D-Farmington), $500
(Tie) 11. Rep. Dave Pagel (R-Oronoko Twp), $500
(Tie) 11. Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw), $500

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS ($14,000)
* Views based on testimony presented to the House Appropriations Committee.
— The operation of public schools must be returned to the community through an elected and empowered school board.
— State must pay the debt accumulated under state control.
— The legislation should bring a single framework for opening and closing schools.
— Lawmakers should ensure a common enrollment system so families can better navigate the school choice system.

1. Rep. Brian Banks (D-Detroit), $2,650
(Tie) 2. House Democratic Fund, $1,500
(Tie) 2. Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park), $1,500
4. Senate Democratic Fund, $1,250
5. Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), $750
(Tie) 6. Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), $500
(Tie) 6. Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), $500
(Tie) 6. Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights), $500
(Tie) 6. Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint), $500
10. Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), $350
11. Sen. Coleman Young (D-Detroit), $300
(Tie) 12. Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills), $250
(Tie) 12. Rep. Andy Schor (D-Lansing), $250
(Tie) 12. Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights), $250
(Tie) 12.. Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), $250
(Tie) 12. Rep. Wendell Byrd (D-Detroit), $250
(Tie) 12. Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville), $250

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