By Ben Velderman
DETROIT – Roy Roberts, the state-appointed emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, has rejected teacher union leaders’ request to negotiate a new contract on behalf of Detroit’s educators.
Roberts has been assigned the daunting task of salvaging a school district that is graduating just 62 percent of its students, and projecting $500 million in long-term debt. It’s an enormous job, and it requires extraordinary powers, which Roberts has already put to use.
“Last month, Roberts imposed a contract for the teachers – a power given to emergency managers by the state’s controversial Public Act 4 of 2011,” reports the Detroit Free Press. “The contract increases class sizes in grades four to 12, continues a 10% pay cut and increases employees’ health care costs.”
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and two local union leaders are unhappy with the new contract, and recently demanded they be allowed to negotiate a different deal.
No dice, said Roberts.
“I cannot place the school district in a position where we have abrogated our rights under the law,” Roberts wrote in a letter to union leaders earlier this week. “Nor can I open up a process that … could lead to a multi-year timetable that would not assist our making forward progress on re-establishing financial health for our district.”
That’s a very diplomatic way of saying the unions cannot be trusted to have any say in how DPS operates.
Roberts understands the only way DPS is going to survive is by eliminating the unions’ influence. It’s no different from a cardiologist telling a patient that in order to stay alive, he must give up smoking and change his diet.
Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, complained that Roberts “has no interest in having real educator voices in improving Detroit Public Schools.”
We say the DFT forfeited the privilege of having their “voice” heard through decades of irresponsible and self-serving behavior.
Roberts showed great discernment and courage in freezing out the unions. For that, he deserves the gratitude of Detroit’s families and Michigan’s taxpayers.