Education

Detroit Voters Back Unprecedented $1.5 Billion Bond Issue

By Peter Schmidt — November 16, 1994 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Detroit voters overwhelmingly approved an unprecedented $1.5 billion school-construction bond issue last week, astounding some local leaders who had refused to support it.

Proposal S, the largest bond issue ever passed by one of the nation’s school districts, cruised like a Cadillac to victory with 60 percent of the vote.

The bond issue, which will be spent on school construction and new technology, won even without the backing of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, Mayor Dennis Archer, and other civic and business leaders. Supporters relied instead on a determined grassroots campaign.

“We went door to door. We telephone banked. We went school to school, church to church--everything,” said Delores Smith, the head of the Citizens for Bond Committee, a campaign organization with about 75 members.

The Detroit vote was in many ways the most surprising of several education-related local elections decided around the country last week. Other urban districts were not as successful in passing bonds.

Both Seattle and Fresno, Calif., last week hung on the wire, counting absentee ballots to determine whether their bond measures had passed. Seattle officials were seeking a $332 million bond, and Fresno residents were asked to approve a bond for $215 million.

In Cleveland, voters again rejected a levy for school desegregation and reform, leaving the district the unpleasant prospect of $16 million in new budget cuts and without enough money to fulfill its end of a desegregation agreement.

Chattanooga, Tenn., voters chose to dismantle their system and consolidate it with surrounding Hamilton County, largely out of the belief that doing so would bring a tax break.

In other communities, where school board races often hinged largely on social issues, conservative Christian groups appeared to have had mixed success in getting candidates elected to board seats. (See Education Week, 10/26/94.)

Reflecting the electorate’s overall discontent, voters in the District of Columbia and several states approved proposals for term limits that will apply to local school boards. (See related story )

Lingering Detroit Doubts

In Detroit, the Citizens for Bond Committee had encouraged voters to visit city schools and see for themselves the old and run-down condition of many of them.

“We felt our schools needed to be brought up to the 21st century so that our children would have the same opportunity as any other children throughout this state,” Ms. Smith said.

Noting that Detroit voters also re-elected five of six incumbent board members, Superintendent David L. Snead said residents expressed “a clear vote of confidence” in the direction the district is heading.

Organizations that had withheld their support from the bond issue showed little such confidence last week, however.

“Our concern continues regarding the planning, management, and cost impact of a $1.5 billion program in the fragile economic situation which exists in Detroit,” said Frank E. Smith, president of the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce.

And John M. Elliott, the president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, continued last week to question whether the money will be spent wisely.

Chattanooga Consolidation

The Chattanooga referendum, passed by 54 percent of voters, called for the 122-year-old city system to consolidate with the Hamilton County district by July 1997.

Its backers told residents their taxes would drop and said the city’s schools would benefit from the county district’s expertise in site-based management.

(See educational atmosphere for our children,” said Glenn C. Stophel, who promoted consolidation as the chairman of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and a leader of a separate pro-referendum citizens’ group.

Mr. Stophel and other consolidation backers had not claimed, however, that consolidation would racially integrate the 20,100-student city system, which is 62 percent black, and the 24,000-student county system, which is 95 percent white.

The measure was opposed by the Chattanooga school board and superintendent, as well as by some community activists and civil-rights advocates.

James R. Mapp, the president of the Chattanooga branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had argued that consolidation would ill serve the city’s black children, in part because the city school board has had far more black members than its county counterpart.

Conservatives’ Role

Although conservative Christians flexed their muscle in some gubernatorial and Congressional races, their success at the local school board level appeared mixed.

In Orlando, Fla., Wayne Rickman, an advocate of school prayer, gained 55 percent of the vote and a seat on the Orange County school board. He won with the help of the Christian Coalition, the national organization founded by the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

But in two districts--Omaha and the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, which encompasses Mission Viejo, Calif.--several incumbents held off challengers they tagged as supported by conservative Christian groups.

And in Lake County, Fla., the elections were predicted to give a more centrist cast to a five-member school board that conservative Christians had dominated.

The Republicans who won the three open seats had billed themselves as considerably more moderate than their predecessors, who earlier this year passed a policy requiring students be taught the cultural superiority of the United States. (See related story

A version of this article appeared in the November 16, 1994 edition of Education Week as Detroit Voters Back Unprecedented $1.5 Billion Bond Issue

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP