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Flint School Board passes revised deficit plan, but teachers balk at pay cut

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Flint Community Schools Board of Trustees approved a revised deficit elimination plan last night. 

But the district’s unions haven’t signed off on a key part of the plan. 

To make the plan work, district officials factored in a 15% pay cut for employees. District officials suggest without the contract concessions, the Flint school district could potentially start down the road to a state takeover.

Ethel Johnson is president of the United Teachers of Flint. She says they’ve already given up too much. 

“Now you want us to panic and do some things that should have been done earlier,” says Johnson. 

Johnson says the unions will come up with alternative suggestions for reducing the school district’s expenses to avoid another big hit to teachers and other staffers. 

But there’s not much time. The district needs to finalize the deficit elimination plan before the end of the year or there could be serious consequences. 

“We’ll continue to work hard to work with the bargaining units to make sure that doesn’t happen,” says interim school superintendent Larry Watkins.

Watkins met with union leaders several times last week after the need to revise the plan became clear. 

Last week, a new auditshowed the Flint school district is $21.9 million in the red – that’s up $1.5 million in just the past few months. It’s also up morethan $10 million since the beginning of year. 

The deficit elimination plan approved last night lays out a strategy for shrinking that deficit to zero by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. The plan’s drafters estimate that’s the soonest the district will reverse a steep decline in its student population. 

If the state does not accept the Flint school district’s latest plan, the district may take a step toward a state takeover. Flint school board member David Davenport welcomes the state to come in and fix the district’s money woes. At last night’s meeting, Davenport accused Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration of creating the district’s money problems. The rest of the school board adamantly insisted they wanted the district to fix its own problems.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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