Missing Detroit Teachers Affect Nearly 100 Schools

Approximately 1,500 of the 2,600 teachers employed by Detroit Public Schools called in sick on Monday to protest potential problems with their pay this summer. The Detroit Federation of Teachers urged members to call out sick a day after a weekend announcement from the Detroit Public Schools’ transition manager that the district will have no money to continue paying teachers this summer without further funding from the state. The mass sick-out has forced the district to close 94 of its 97 schools.

The move by the Detroit Federation of Teachers was announced Sunday. The union’s interim president, Ivy Bailey, released a statement saying that “by refusing to guarantee that we will be paid for our work, DPS is effectively locking our members out of the classrooms.” Nearly 45,600 of the district’s approximately 46,000 students were forced to miss classes on Monday. Teacher strikes are illegal under Michigan law. Sick-outs earlier this year caused tens of thousands of students to miss class.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement that the sick-out is “not constructive” and hampers efforts to persuade lawmakers to approve a $720 million rescue package for the school district. The restructuring plan is needed to pay teachers who’ve chosen to have their checks spread over the full year, as well as pay for summer school and special education programs. The state Senate approved the package in March. In Flint on Monday, the governor told reporters that he hopes the House approves the legislation this month

Detroit’s schools are expected to be out of cash starting July 1. The state gave the district $48.7 million in emergency funding in March to keep it open through June 30. Teachers said they had been told that the $48.7 million allocated by the Legislature would cover summer pay for the approximately two-thirds of district teachers who signed up for a year-round paycheck plan. Former bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, who was appointed this year to oversee the district, denied those claims. Rhodes also says the union’s “drastic call to action was not necessary.”

DPS has been under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager since 2009. The school system currently has an operating deficit of $515 million. The comprehensive plan that is now under consideration by the Legislature would pay off the district’s enormous debt and create a new district. Until the funding issues at the financially struggling district are resolved, the parents of Detroit can expect to see more of the same in the future.