August 25, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Michigan school chief jabs DPS over pay cuts on Twitter

Detroit— State school Superintendent Mike Flanagan scolded Michigan’s largest district Monday on Twitter, urging Detroit Public Schools to come up with “a better solution” to its fiscal problems than employee pay cuts.

In a pair of tweets, Flanagan said he opposed the 10 percent pay cut DPS included in its newly revised deficit elimination plan, which the Michigan Department of Education approved last week.

“To teachers: I don’t support 10% cut to Detroit teachers,” he tweeted. “I have no line item veto on deficit plans & DPS needed urgent loan.”

In a second tweet minutes later, the state school chief wrote, “ ... DPS can make things right. Send me a revised deficit plan that has a better solution with no pay cuts to teachers and staff.”

DPS, which is trying to eliminate a $127 million deficit, was counting on receiving $18.5 million from a countywide school millage that voters rejected Aug. 5. The tax’s defeat forced the district to make up the expected revenue with budget cuts.

DPS Emergency Manager Jack Martin also asked the state to let the district float $111 million in short-term bonds to cover bills while it awaited state aid payments.

Before the state OK’d the financing, school board members had warned of payless paydays for district employees.

Spokesman Steve Wasko said the district is not in danger of missing payroll this month. “Even before the MFA approved DPS’ cash flow borrowing last week, the district was in no immediate danger of not meeting its payroll,” he said.

“The cash flow borrowing approved last week is not unusual, and is not unique to DPS,” Wasko said.

In revising its deficit-cutting plan, Wasko said DPS considered every available option, including large-scale layoffs.

“However, due to the severe reduction of our workforce caused by other layoffs in recent years, we determined that further staff reductions would impede and/or prevent our ability to fulfill the district’s mission of providing a quality education to the children of Detroit,” he said.

MDE spokesman Bill DiSessa said although Flanagan did not agree with the district’s decision to cut the pay of teachers and other employees, the superintendent’s role is not to decide if such an action is a wise way to reduce red ink.

“It only is to determine whether or not the proposed savings are accurate and attainable, which they are if the district wants to continue down that path,” DiSessa said.

slewis@detroitnews.com
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