Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) is arguing that Steven Rhodes, the transition manager of the new Detroit Public Schools Community District ("DPSCD"), does not have the authority to negotiate or enter into a new contract with the district's teachers. It's a strange argument coming from a person who voted to give Rhodes that very authority just three months ago.
In accordance with Public Act 192 of 2016, the Detroit schools reorganization legislation passed in June, the transition manager of DPSCD possesses the powers of the school board and superintendent until the members of the new school board take office on January 1. This is subject to only one exception: Under MCL 380.12b(3), "the transition manager shall not negotiate or enter into any collective bargaining agreement that would bind the elected school board of the community district."
It is a fundamental principle of construction that every word in a statute must be given some meaning, and no statute may be interpreted in such a way as to render any word or phrase superfluous, meaningless, or unnecessary. If the Legislature had intended to prohibit the transition manager from negotiating and entering into all collective bargaining agreements, as Meekhof now appears to argue, it would not have included the modifying words "that would bind the elected school board of the community district" in § 12b(3). By including these words, the Legislature made clear that it only intended to prohibit the transition manager from negotiating and entering into collective bargaining agreements that extend beyond January 1, when the elected school board takes over.
Under Meekhof's proposed interpretation of § 12b(3), the words "that would bind the elected school board of the community district" are nothing but meaningless surplusage. As a matter of law, such an interpretation must be rejected.
As the courts have reminded us time and again, the statements and subjective beliefs of individual legislators are irrelevant when construing Michigan statutes. Rather, we must look to the plain language of the statute to ascertain the Legislature's intent. It is clear that § 12b(3) gives the DPSCD transition manager authority to negotiate and enter into a new collective bargaining agreement with the district's teachers so long as it does not purport to bind the elected school board after January 1. Moreover, contrary to the remarks of Meekhof's spokesperson, there is nothing in the law that prohibits Rhodes and DPSCD teachers from agreeing to contract terms that differ from those currently in place.