A newly ratified union contract in Flint Community Schools will equate to more money for teachers, though how it might impact the district’s abysmal student performance remains unclear.

“Our main focus was making sure that we took care of our teachers as well as what we need to do to help move the district forward and bringing in new teachers and helping to recruit students and making sure that we keep this district viable,” United Teachers of Flint President Karen Christian told WSMH.

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Christian discussed the contract alongside Flint Community Schools Superintendent Kevelin Jones at a press conference on Wednesday, the culmination of months of negotiations plagued by protests and threats of a teachers strike.

Details of the agreement, inked just a few months after the district asked taxpayers to help resolve its $56 million debt, come as FCS continues to run an operating deficit of $14.4 million.

The settlement approved by the Flint Board of Education and ratified by the UTF last week devotes $1.5 million to restore automatic annual pay raises for teachers, including for educators who had topped out on the pay scale, MLive reports.

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“That will put every single teacher as of the beginning of next year at the (salary) step where they are able to be with relation to their experience in the classroom,” Christian said.

Other provisions include a change to allow the district to place teachers on the pay scale, instead of starting at step one, and a shift back to a traditional school calendar in the 2025-26 school year. FCS is currently on a “balanced” calendar with a shorter summer break and more frequent, longer breaks during the school year.

“Through this we’re able to start teachers anywhere between step one and step 14, and so that’s new. That is better for us,” Jones said, according to WNEM. “We all understand that to do something as historic as this, it’s going to take making sure that we are moving forward and right-sizing this district.”

FCS currently enrolls about 2,900 students, down from 10,765 in 2011-12, and as much as 21,000 in the 2002-03 school year. Yet despite the quickly shrinking student population, the district is spending $18.6 million to open four renovated schools next year: Doyle-Rider, Holmes STEM Academy, Brownell, and Potter Elementary, WNEM reports.

“Yes, we do have building issues, but we also need new enrollees to come back to Flint Community Schools,” Jones said, according to MLive. “Sometimes we’re focusing on the closures or the vacant properties when we also need to focus on enrollment campaigns and bringing in a new high school for our students.”

Despite receiving more federal COVID relief than any other Michigan school district – $156 million or roughly $51,000 per student – FCS continues to produce some of the worst student performance in the state. Districtwide, less than 10% of students are proficient at math, while only 10% of elementary students, 12% of middle school students, and 9% of high school students can read at grade level, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The graduation rate for FCS is 34.7%, the data shows.

Federal COVID funds were intended to help improve student learning, though much of the spending in Flint 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 less than 3,000 students, and toward $10,000 stipends for 30 virtual school mentors.

The COVID funding, and $23 million in per-pupil funds from Michigan taxpayers, has not been enough to stem the district’s financial problems, and FCS earlier this year asked for an additional $56 million for a “fresh start,” The Detroit News reports.

“We have bonded debt,” Jones told the News in January. “The bonded debt has crowded out our ability to pass a larger bond or sinking fund to address capital issues outside of, and to relieve pressure on, our general fund, which could then better fund scholars and staff in classrooms.”

How the UTF contract will impact the finances is unclear as the document has not been released to the public.

District officials did not respond to a request from The Midwesterner for a copy of the agreement, or questions about included provisions aimed at improving student learning.