United Teachers of Flint are threatening to walk out on students after it claims the school board it helped to elect is putting “its own politics” first by rejecting a union contract the district can’t afford.

UTF President Karen Christian on Wednesday lashed out at the unanimous decision by the Flint Community Schools Board of Education last month to reject a settlement agreement negotiated with the union by administrators and three board members.

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Christian told MLive it’s “total ridiculousness” that the board deemed the cost of restoring salary steps too expensive for a district operating on a $14 million deficit.

Christian and about 80 other UFT members packed the board’s meeting on Wednesday with signs that read “No Trust” and “Support Public Education” to register their frustrations, while officials from their state affiliate, the Michigan Education Association, threatened to call a strike.

“If you don’t do something soon, they’re not going to be here,” MEA UniServ Director Bruce Jordan told the board. “They’re leaving in droves.”

At least three of the seven members of the school board were endorsed by the UTF in 2022, including Michael Clack, Dylan Luna, and Melody Relerford. The same candidates were endorsed by the MEA.

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Christian said following the vote to reject the proposed contract those board members put their “own politics” ahead of Flint students, alleging the board will “micromanage” negotiations.

“We saved the district 10 years ago and we are still waiting to be restored,” Christian told WSMH, referring to budget cuts in 2014 to mitigate a nearly $22 million deficit. “I am extremely frustrated, it’s not right we saved this district 10 years ago from being taken over and it’s like nobody wants to honor what we did. We gave up more than every other bargaining group in this district.”

A little over three years ago, Christian celebrated a union contract approved by 96% of members that included new health benefit options, class size maximums, longevity bonuses, and pay raises.

That one-year contract, inked shortly before the pandemic, also ended a wage freeze over the previous five years.

Flint Community Schools has since received $156 million in federal COVID relief, or roughly $51,000 per student, the most of any school district in the state by far. The next closest was Benton Harbor Area Schools at $29,502 per student, according to Michigan Capital Confidential.

Flint Community Schools is now asking the legislature to pay off a $56 million debt, The Detroit News reports.

Much of the district’s COVID relief spending went to large pay raises and a $20,500 bonus for each district employee, which increases legacy costs.

District officials dedicated more than $8.6 million of the funding for a “COVID retention payment for staff,” with $1.8 million for principals and assistant principals, $484,386 for the superintendent and assistant superintendent, and a little over $1 million for special education staff, according to Flint Beat.

Still more COVID funds went to buy 4,200 Chromebooks and 3,000 iPads for a district of 2,989 students, and for $10,000 stipends for 30 virtual school mentors.

The district also bought about 300 homeless students school supplies and things like shoes, coats, hats, and gloves, spending about $15,000, Michigan Capital Confidential reports.

“The state has a process to prevent insolvency and should enforce the process instead of immediately bailing out the district,” said Molly Macek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “Simply bailing them out is unfair to other districts that work hard to balance their budgets and follow the proper process to avoid insolvency.”

Christian told WJRT the union has not yet decided on a strike, though members have authorized one, and leaders plan to wait until after next week’s board meeting before deciding on next course of action.

The school board is slated to meet next on Wednesday, Feb. 21.