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Detroit teachers' sick-out draws criticism from Lansing, district manager

DETROIT – Local 4 has learned the Michigan House Appropriations Committee is going to take action on a much different bailout for Detroit Public Schools (DPS) than the one passed by the Senate. 

The House's bill contains punishment for teachers who have staged sick-outs, such as the one on Monday. The sick-out was in reaction to this weekend's announcement that the school district wouldn't be able to pay teachers beyond June 30. Some DPS teachers choose to be on a 26-payment schedule so they can get paid through the summer. 

"We were sure that they were going to be covered," said Ivy Bailey, interim president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers union. "So I don't know if it was a miscalculation. I don't what happened."

DPS transition manager Steven Rhodes said he never would have said such a thing. 

"I have no recollection of that conversation. If I said that, I must have been referring to the fact that they would be paid if the Legislature passed the reform bill," said Rhodes. 

Watch: What is the financial cost of the teacher sick-out?

Whether it was misinformation or miscommunication, it ignited a firestorm. More than 2/3rds of DPS teachers take summer paychecks. That's money they earned the previous school year. It represents 1/6th of their income. 

"If I don't make those payments during the summertime, come September I'm not going to have a car to drive," said Dinah Good, a teacher at Munger Elementary.

Rhodes said he feels their pain, but the sick-out was a costly way to teach a lesson everyone already knows. He said without passage of the DPS dept elimination plan in Lansing, there is no district. 

"And because of that, we urge everyone who has a stake in the future of DPS, including the unions, its leadership, teachers, other educators, parents, civic leaders, to join together to urge the Legislature to act more promptly," said Rhodes. 

Lansing lawmakers not impressed

The sick-out may make that job tougher. Lansing allies such as Senator Arlan Meekhof (R-Grand Haven), who shepherded the Senate bill through his chambers, had this to say about the sick-out Monday:

"This makes the likelihood of reaching a long-term solution for DPS more challenging."

Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter (R-Mount Pleasant) went further and called the teachers "egotistical" and the sick-out a "cheap political stunt."

If DPS runs out of money

If the district runs out of money June 30, perhaps as many as five pay periods in July and August will come and go without checks. That's money that would pay teachers for the last 36 days of the year. There's only 35 days left -- so it means if it comes to pass they will have worked for free.