Cash-strapped Detroit school system 'cannot afford to pay its teachers'
Steven Rhodes, the state-appointed emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools, said urgent action was needed to deal with the school system’s growing debt problem or else teachers will not receive a pay packet beyond April.
Mr Rhodes, who was parachuted in earlier this month, and superintendent Alycia Meriweather gave the warning while giving evidence to the members of the House Appropriations Committee.
The pair urged the House to agree a plan to deal with the district’s debt problem, according to local news reports.
“The April 8th date concerns me greatly because there is no Plan B,” he said, according to the Detroit News. “To go dark after April 8th is not an acceptable solution.”
“We cannot print money. We looked at some options, like expenses that could be deferred but that’s not enough to buy another two weeks of pay for teachers,” he added.
The city’s school system already has $515m worth of operating debt, and a total debt of an eye-watering $3bn.
The cash-strapped schools have been the center of national focus for some time, not least for the state of their dilapidated buildings.
The schools, some of which are infested with mold, rats and cockroaches, have forced teachers to lead mass walkouts or “sickouts” in a bid to draw greater attention to the problem.
Speaking to reporters after his appearance at the hearing, Mr Rhodes warned that the system was in danger of running out of cash next month.
“We can pay employees for the work they do through April 8, but not after that... I cannot, in good conscience, ask teachers to work after April 8 knowing that I can't pay them when their paychecks are due two weeks later," he said, the Detroit Free Press reported.
A $50m package is needed urgently to carry schools through to the end of the academic year, but legislators cannot agree to a long term plan for the school system.