‘Sickout’ by Detroit Teachers Closes Public Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

Teachers in Detroit staged a sickout yesterday to call attention to “unsafe, crumbling, vermin-infested and inadequately staffed buildings, and the failure of state lawmakers to agree on a plan to rescue the system”.  As a result, 64 of the 100 Detroit public schools were closed by officials.  As reported in the New York Times:

“Teachers said the action, which was not organized or authorized by their union, was intended to pressure officials in Lansing into helping the schools.

For nearly a year, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature have been discussing a deal to restructure the school system and put it on a sound footing, but they have been unable to reach agreement.

The faction of teachers behind the sickout has been talking of the possibility of a full-fledged strike, and while the union has played down that possibility, it could be addressed at a membership meeting called for Thursday.

The district said it had ordered 64 of its about 100 schools closed for the day, because so many teachers had called in sick.

Ivy Bailey, the interim president of the union, Detroit Federation of Teachers, said of the sickout, “I don’t support the method,” but she refused to condemn the teachers who had taken part, saying she understood their anger.

“There are rats, there’s rodents, there’s dripping water, there’s holes,” she said. “This is unacceptable. This is black mold. Our children are in that building breathing this day in and day out. This is third world.”

Last week, Darnell Earley, the emergency financial manager in control of the district, warned that job actions by teachers “serve no purpose other than to harm and disrupt the efforts intended for those who can ill afford to lose instruction time, social building time and time in the classrooms.”

Some parents and administrators noted that for the large number of Detroit students who participate in subsidized meal programs, school closings may mean they have little or nothing to eat.

Mr. Earley acknowledged Monday that “working for an organization in distress, especially the level of distress facing D.P.S., is not easy,” but he described the job action as counterproductive.

“This sickout resulted in more than 31,000” of the 46,000 district students missing a day of instruction, he said, adding that it could cost the district more than $1 million in state funding that is based on attendance.”

It is sad to see how the Detroit public schools have been allowed to fall into such disrepair.  State lawmakers need to address the problem.


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