Education officials have approved a Detroit Public Schools (DPS) plan to cut teachers’ pay by 10% across the district in order to eradicate the district’s $127 million deficit.
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced on Wednesday that he approved of the five-year plan for the district to continue receiving state school aid. Jennifer Chambers and Shawn D. Lewis, reporting for The Detroit News, state that the cut, which will affect all teachers and administrators beginning October 1, was caused by a countywide tax millage that failed. The wage reduction for teachers will generate $13.3 million in savings, district-wide, $21.1 million will be saved.
Twenty-four schools or buildings will close as of the 2015-2016 school year. A group of parents, educators, and community members gathered in front of Ludington Middle School on Wednesday to protest the cuts and the district’s previously announced plans to increase class sizes. Brian Kindle, parent of two DPS district school students said he was worried that the pay cuts would impact his children.
“I say hands off first responders, kids and teachers,” he said. “I’m here to support parents and their children, and to ask Gov. Snyder not to vote for the proposal.”
“We should have classrooms on every corner, instead of liquor stores,” he said. “That would be great, but we don’t have a society that encourages it. But I will remain on the forefront supporting our children.”
Another district teacher of 19 years, Kim Tack, was worried.
“They’re talking about a 10% pay cut, and at the same time, our insurance premiums have more than doubled,” said Tack. “How am I supposed to pay for my house?”
A pastor from the Liberty Temple Baptist in Detroit said that it was unfair to ask people to take a pay cut when they are already having to choose between food and medicine.
Both his wife and daughter are teachers. At this same time of this gathering, in Lansing, the state’s Local Emergency Financial Assistant Loan Board approved a proposal by DPS emergency manager Jack Martin for the district to borrow $111 million in state aid notes to pay its bills.
The state’s emergency manager law (Public Act 436), according to the state treasury spokesman Terry Stanton, requires that the loan board approve the request. The Detroit Board of Education did not approve the request to float $111 million in bonds to cover bills until the district receives funding from the state. The board said the district needed $81 million and that is the amount they authorized. The loan board, however, approved Martin’s request.
Michigan Radio, in an article by Jake Neher and Sarah Cwiek, reports that the Emergency Loan Board sided with the emergency manager for good reason.
“I don’t believe the (school) board’s proposal included as much background and data supporting its argument, its position,” said Terry Stanton, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Treasury. “And the ELB determined that borrowing $81 million simply wouldn’t be sufficient to address some of the significant cash flow issues the district has.”
The Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), says the first problem with the 10% pay cuts is that they were not collectively bargained, and that was not the only problem. Dave LewAllen of WXYZ Detroit, says DFT president, Keith Johnson, who represents approximately 4,000 teachers, insists that cutting teachers’ pay is not the way to go.
“They’re sick and tired of it and now it’s up to me to take the legal avenues available to me to thwart this attempt to pass their ineptitude on to the backs of people that I represent and I’m prepared to do that,” Johnson said.