Detroit students forced out of classrooms for 2nd straight day
DPS stage sick-out in protest
Nearly all of Detroit's public schools were closed for a second consecutive day Tuesday as hundreds of teachers called out sick over concerns that many may not get paid if the financially struggling district runs out of money.
By 7 a.m., the district reported 94 schools were closed.
The district has been under continuous state oversight since 2009 and led by a series of emergency managers who have tried to cut down its debt and millions of dollars in annual deficits. Current transition manager and former federal judge Steven Rhodes, who oversaw the city's recent bankruptcy, warned over the weekend that $47.8 million in emergency money that the state approved in March will run out by June 30.
Teachers opting to have their pay spread over a full 12 months instead of the course of the school year would not receive paychecks in July and August without more help from the state.
The state Legislature is considering a $720 million restructuring plan that would pay off the district's enormous debt.
But the growing sick-outs that started late last year with just a small group of teachers appear to be threatening the plan.
Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, said Monday that the sick-outs, conducted by "egotistical teachers," have cost Detroit schoolchildren more than one million hours of instruction.
"Their selfish and misguided plea for attention only makes it harder for us to enact a rescue plan and makes it harder for Detroit's youngest residents to get ahead and build a future for themselves," Cotter said in a statement.
Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan, and many in the state Legislature view the sick-out as an illegal strike.
After the Detroit Federation of Teachers membership staged Monday’s sick-out, a package of bills dealing with a bailout for DPS appeared on the House Appropriations Committee schedule for Tuesday morning. The DFT and the Detroit delegation do not want the bills, as they view the package as being anti-labor and not having nearly enough money to dig the district out.
DFT teachers are expected to meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and hold a membership meeting at 4:30 p.m.
DPS' message to parents:
"We want to apologize for the inconveniences caused by today's teacher sick outs. We remain confident that the funding issues for DPS will be resolved, and have been working daily with Lansing to move the reform legislation forward. Despite these ongoing efforts, the DFT has called for another sick out tomorrow, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. As of 10 p.m., the district has not closed any schools. Please stay tuned to the District's Facebook page and website, as well as our local media to learn about any specific school closings later this evening or tomorrow morning. We will notify you as soon as possible of any closures. We encourage all DPS families to contact their legislators to share their opinion on the pending legislation and to reach out directly to the DFT with your response to their actions. Thank you for your continued support of Detroit Public Schools."
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During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, representatives from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the DFT unions described their frustrations.
“I can’t say that we’re optimistic or pessimistic. I can say that we are working really hard to find a way (to educate children)," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "The educators here are real heroes."
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