News Story

Flint schools get $156M in COVID funds, ask for debt relief

District seeks $56M bailout from Michigan Legislature

Leaders of Flint’s school district have asked state lawmakers to pay off $56 million in debt, according to The Detroit News. The call for a state payoff of district debt comes three years after Flint Community Schools received $156 million in COVID-19 relief funds, or over $51,000 per pupil.

Flint Community Schools received $51,193 per pupil in various relief measures in the COVID-19 era, more than any other district in the state. Benton Harbor Area Schools was second at $29,502 per pupil.

“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.”

The district argues that COVID funds came with restrictions, which means it cannot use them to pay off debt.

Macek said that while the district cannot directly use COVID money to pay off debt, it could have devoted some of its state revenue to the debt while using federal money to make up the difference.

Flint district officials instead took out additional loans. They also used a substantial portion of COVID funds for large pay raises and gave each district employee a $20,500 bonus. That raises future costs, as it increases salary expectations for the years to come.

Flint Beat provides a breakdown of salaries the money supported, including $8,662,500 for “COVID retention payment for staff.”

Principals and assistant principals received $1.8 million, while the superintendent and assistant superintendent were given $484,386. Special education staff received $1,072,500.

The district spent $15,000 for supplies and materials such as uniforms, shoes, coats, hats, gloves and school supplies for 300 homeless students. The spending, which the district said was “to ensure equity and access to education,” came out to $50 per student.

Flint schools also purchased 4,200 Chromebooks and 3,000 iPads, though the district had only 2,989 students in 2022. It also gave $10,000 stipends to 30 virtual school mentors.

School officials did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.