LANSING, Mich. (AP) – The Detroit school district might be unable to pay teachers after April 8 if lawmakers don’t quickly approve money to keep the schools afloat, district officials said Wednesday.
Steven Rhodes, the new manager of Detroit Public Schools, said he can’t “in good conscience” ask teachers to continue working without assuring them that they’ll be paid, implying that the cash-strapped school system could be careening toward a halt if lawmakers don’t approve supplemental funding before adjourning for a two-week spring break later this month.
“I’m deeply concerned about the district running out of money after April 8,” Rhodes told reporters Wednesday, after testifying before the House Appropriations Committee. “There is no plan B. I plan to work as hard as I can, and as hard as necessary, to persuade the Legislature that the kids of the City of Detroit need their help and their support not only in the $50 million supplemental appropriation, but also for the larger reorganization proposal.”
Rhodes said he’s convinced the supplemental appropriation and reorganization measures are “equally important,” and said both “have urgency about them.”
Detroit Public Schools are about $515 million in debt. Gov. Rick Snyder is pushing for legislation to keep the district running until the end of the year in addition to a long-term overhaul that could cost as much as $715 million.
Rhodes said bankruptcy is a bad option because much of the district’s debt can’t be erased. He added that if a broader restructuring doesn’t happen, the school system would face the same financial problems next year.
“We have a constitutional and moral obligation to educate our kids,” Rhodes told reporters.
Ivy Bailey, interim president of the union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that besides teachers and staff not being paid, many students wouldn’t receive breakfast or lunch if the school system runs out of money.