Detroit teachers union leadership calls for sick-outs at all DPS schools

Union to hold meeting Tuesday

DETROIT – The Detroit Federation of Teachers interim president Ivy Bailey and the union leadership are calling on sick-outs at all Detroit Public Schools (DPS) on Monday.

Check: School closings list

This announcement comes a day after the district told union leaders it will be unable to continue paying its employees after June 30, according to an email sent by Bailey to union members.

The union held an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss what steps to take. Calling for teacher sick-outs, starting Monday, is one step the union has chosen. Detroit teachers have staged similar sick-outs this school year in protest of conditions at DPS buildings. 

DPS Transition Manager Steven Rhodes said the $48.7 million in supplemental funding recently passed by the Michigan Legislature will provide enough funding for DPS to pay all employees through the end of the fiscal year June 30.

Read: Full statement by Rhodes on May 2 sick-out

"However, without the passage of the more comprehensive $715 million education reform package that is now being considered by the Michigan House of Representatives, there will be no funds available to pay DPS employees -- those teachers on a 26-pay cycle included," Rhodes said in a statement. "There also will be no funds available for the district to conduct summer school or provide the year-round special education services that a number of our students rely on. I urge our legislators to act thoughtfully, but with the urgency that this situation demands."

Rhodes said instead of calling in sick, teachers should call their political representatives instead to help pass reform legislation that will get the district more money.

READ: Bailey's response to Rhodes’ statement on sick-out

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan spoke about the issue Sunday at the Detroit Branch NAACP's annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner.

"Detroit will truly never be great again until our recovery includes our children, all of our children. And, we're going to get it done," he said.

Union meeting Tuesday

The DFT union will hold an emergency membership meeting Tuesday night to discuss its next actions. A voice vote will be taken at the meeting. On Wednesday, there will be voting by secret ballot.

Teachers told Local 4 they were shocked by the news, and surprised when they received Bailey's email this weekend.

“Freaked out, is the best way to describe it. And really shocked when we saw the email,” said Jennifer Menzer, an 8th grade English teacher at Munger School.

Menzer has been teaching in the district for 15 years. She opted for the 26 payments so she’d still get a paycheck in the summer. In March, when the Michigan Senate and House approved $48.7 million in emergency state funding for DPS, aimed towards helping the district remain open the rest of the school year, Menzer raised concerns.

"Talked to the union and they said, ‘No, if we get the money that we need, people who have 26 pays and get the pay over the summer would get paid,'" she said.

Watch: Following the money in the Detroit Public Schools mess

Federal corruption probe continues

Meanwhile, 13 former Detroit Public Schools principals are accused of taking kickbacks from a contractor. The first in a line pleaded guilty this past week and could be sentenced to at least three years in prison.

Read: DPS principals line up for guilty pleas in corruption probe

Clara Smith's plea was accepted Thursday in federal court. She is scheduled to be sentenced in September, and could get 46 to 57 months in prison.

Smith was the principal of Thirkell Elementary-Middle School from 2008-2016. She and other principals are accused of scheming with district vendor Norman Shy.

Overall, the U.S. Attorney's Office says 11 guilty pleas so far are scheduled in April and May, including deals with nine principals. The man at the center of the probe, Shy, is scheduled to plead guilty on May 11.

Feds: DPS officials will steal from their own

Federal investigators said that because of the scheme, the district paid thousands of dollars for auditorium chairs, supplemental teaching material, raised line paper and other classroom supplies that either never arrived or came in smaller quantities than ordered.



About the Authors:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.