August 20, 2014 at 11:22 pm

State OKs 10% pay cut to ease DPS deficit

A proposal by DPS emergency manager Jack Martin, left, to borrow $111 million in state aid notes to pay bills was approved Wednesday. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

State education officials have approved a plan by Detroit Public Schools to slash pay 10 percent districtwide to help erase the district’s $127 million deficit.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced Wednesday he approved the district’s updated five-year deficit elimination plan for the district to continue receiving state school aid.

The pay cut, which will impact all teachers and administrators starting Oct. 1, came after the district was forced to make budget cuts to offset expected revenue from a failed countywide tax millage. The wage concession for teachers would generate $13.3 million in savings. Districtwide, the savings will be $21.1 million.

The district’s financial plan also calls for the closure of 24 schools or buildings over four years, starting with the 2015-16 academic year.

Parents, educators and community stakeholders met Wednesday morning in front of Ludington Middle School to denounce the cuts, as well as the district’s previously announced plans to increase class sizes.

Brian Kindle has two children beginning Head Start in the fall, and a 15-year-old at Cody High School. He said he’s worried about how pay cuts will impact his kids.

“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.”

Kindle said he fears additional cuts will result in further neglect of students in the classroom.

“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.”

The pay cuts also worry Kim Tack, who teaches science and social studies at Ludington. She has taught in the building for three years, and has been a DPS employee for 19 years.

“They’re talking about a 10 percent 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?”

Michelle Morden teaches English language arts at the middle school. She’s been with DPS for 17 years.

“This is going to affect my whole financial situation, and it’s going to have a huge impact on my family,” she said. “It’s also going to impact the way we teach, because all teachers go into their own pockets to spend for classroom supplies, and now that can’t happen.”

Cherri Calhoun, a secretary at Ludington, said if she did not have her mom living with her, she’d be homeless.

“As it is now, I’m already struggling to pay my mortgage and my mom helps me pay my bills,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to find a part-time job now.”

Calhoun said to make matters worse, she is in a financial bind from the recent flooding in Metro Detroit.

“I just bought a new furnace and the water heater was relatively new and I’m going to have to replace the water heater,” she said. “This is horrible. I’ve got all these bills and I can’t afford to do anything.”

Senior pastor Steve Bland Jr. of Liberty Temple Baptist Church in Detroit said it’s unfair to ask people to accept cuts when they’re already choosing between food and medicine.

“I’m calling on Gov. Snyder to look at this plan and find another way,” he said.

He said both his wife and daughter are teachers.

“I can hear the pain in my wife’s voice when she talks about this,” he said “We are not going to stand for it, and people will vote with their feet in the next election.”

Also Wednesday morning in Lansing, the state’s Local Emergency Financial Assistance 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 loan board must approve the request under Public Act 436, the state’s emergency manager law, state treasury spokesman Terry Stanton said.

Last week, the Detroit Board of Education rejected Martin’s request to float $111 million in bonds to cover bills until the district receives funding payments from the state of Michigan. The board said the district needed $81 million and authorized that amount instead.

The loan board was required to consider both requests from Martin and the board. It chose Martin’s, Stanton said.

jchambers@detroitnews.com
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