More than 90 Detroit Public Schools are closed Monday due to “sickouts” led by the local teachers’ union.
Detroit Federation of Teachers interim President Ivy Bailey called for teacher sickouts after news broke over the weekend that the district would not pay teachers after June 30. Michigan law forbids teachers to strike.
“There’s a basic agreement in America: When you put in a day’s work, you’ll receive a day’s pay. DPS is breaking that deal,” Bailey said in a statement. “Teachers want to be in the classroom giving children a chance to learn and reach their potential. Unfortunately, by refusing to guarantee that we will be paid for our work, DPS is effectively locking our members out of the classrooms.”
DPS leaders said in addition, no funds would be available for summer school or the district’s special education services, offered year-round.
Michigan lawmakers recently approved a $48.7 million emergency measure to guarantee pay for teachers who have elected to spread their paychecks over the 52-week calendar year, as House legislators mull over a larger plan passed by the state Senate in March.
Senators passed a $715-million education reform plan to split the district, helping to relieve the $515 million operating debt over a 10-year period.
“When it first came to our attention in March that DPS would not have enough cash to make payroll through the end of the school year, we asked and were told that the $48.7 million in supplemental funding requested by the district administration would include money necessary to pay school employees who elected to have their pay spread over 26 pay periods for the year,” Bailey wrote in an email to teachers Saturday, according to WXYZ Detroit. “We just received information that this is not the case and we are outraged.”
Bailey assured teachers that union leaders would meet on Monday with DPS administrators and financial officials to resolve the problem.
Retired judge Steven Rhodes, appointed to manage the DPS transition program, said the sickouts were “unneccesary” and “detrimental” to progress made by those working to help matters.
“It is unfortunate that the DFT has chosen to make a statement in this way,” Rhodes said in a statement.
“I am on record as saying that I cannot in good conscience ask anyone to work without pay,” Rhodes said. “Wages that are owed to teachers should be paid. I understand the frustration and anger that our teachers feel. I am, however, confident that the legislature will support the request that will guarantee that teachers will receive the pay that is owed to them.”
Teachers have staged multiple sickouts throughout the year in protest of the troubled district’s decaying infrastructure.
Parents and teachers posted pictures of the schools’ disturbing conditions.
Mold and mildew have begun to accumulate along the walls due to water damage caused by leaky roofs. Ceilings are falling and rodents and cockroaches openly roam school hallways.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan took a tour of schools in response to the outrage in January. He called the conditions “heartbreaking.”
“I saw 4-year-olds in a classroom where it was about 50 degrees,” he said. “They told me they usually wear their coats until lunchtime, when they warm up a bit … because there’s a part of each day they actually expect to have to wear their coats in the classroom.”