Top senator criticizes Detroit schools manager over contract

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LANSING, Mich. – A Republican legislative leader is lashing out at the Detroit school district's emergency manager after the approval of teacher pay increases.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said Wednesday he's lost "all my confidence" in Steven Rhodes as the state-managed district is gradually returned to local control under a $617 million state bailout.

Meekhof says Rhodes found a "loophole" in the legislation and isn't "doing a good job for the taxpayers."

The Detroit Federation of Teachers last week ratified a contract with pay hikes, mostly one-time bonuses. It remains in effect through December and then through June unless the new school board that's elected this fall wants to renegotiate.

Meekhof says the $10 million in spending could have fixed more school buildings.

Rhodes issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

"I agreed to the recent collective bargaining agreement with the Detroit Federation of Teachers for three reasons. First, the dedicated teachers at Detroit Public Schools Community District have not received a pay raise in seven years since 2009 and they also took a 10 percent pay cut in 2013. Now that DPSCD is fiscally stable and on a path to our goal of excellence in academics, I concluded that simple notions of fairness required to us to do what we could for our teachers.

Second, competitive salaries are necessary to attract and retain the highest quality teachers for our students. This agreement sets DPSCD on a path to achieve that goal.

Third, under the conservative budget estimates that I insisted on, DPSCD can afford the modest pay increase that we offered to our teachers. After a thorough and independent review, the Financial Review Commission unanimously agreed."