DETROIT – Nearly all of Detroit's public schools were closed Monday after the teachers union urged members to call out sick following a weekend announcement that the district wouldn't be able to pay its teachers starting this summer.
District spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in an email Monday morning that 94 of the district's 97 schools would be closed for the day. About 46,000 students are enrolled in the district's schools.
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The move by the Detroit Federation of Teachers was announced Sunday, a day after Detroit Public Schools' transition manager said the district would have no money to continue paying teachers this summer without further funding from the state.
"There's a basic agreement in America: When you put in a day's work, you'll receive a day's pay," Detroit Federation of Teachers Interim President Ivy Bailey said in a statement. "DPS is breaking that deal. 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."
In March, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law emergency funding that is keeping the district operating through the end of the school year as the state Legislature considers a $720 million restructuring plan that would pay off the district's enormous debt.
Former bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, who was appointed this year to oversee the district, also said Saturday that DPS would be unable to fund summer school or special education programs after June 30.
On Sunday night, he said in a statement that the union's "choice for a drastic call to action was not necessary" and said that a sickout is "counterproductive and detrimental" to the efforts of those trying to help the school district.
"I understand the frustration and anger that our teachers feel," Rhodes said. "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."
Teacher strikes are illegal under Michigan law. Sick-outs earlier this year caused tens of thousands of students to miss class.
"We’re hoping that this draw attention to this issue. Obviously, it’s quite alarming to hear that teachers won’t get paid and school won’t happen after June 30,” said Terrance Martin, executive vice president of DFT. “This is an opportunity for the district to right this wrong.”
Martin said teachers are only fighting for what is best for children.
“This is not the ideal situation that we like, but, obviously, something has to be done,” he said. “It is imperative that funding to Detroit Public Schools comes quickly ... we see no other chance than to act."
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.
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.