Detroit School Teachers Starting Mass Sickouts Monday, Rally Planned For Morning

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The situation in the Detroit Public Schools is continuing to spiral downward.

Upon receiving word earlier this week from DPS Transition Manager Steven Rhodes that there would be no money to pay teachers after June 30, even after $48.7 million in supplemental funding – including those receiving 26 paychecks a year who, under a previous understanding, were to continue to get paid through the summer, an emergency meeting of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, Local 231 was called.

In an email sent to Saturday to Detroit Federation of Teachers members by President Ivy Bailey said in part:

When it first came to our attention in March that DPS would not have enough cash to make payroll through the end of the school year, we asked and were told that the $48.7 million in supplemental funding requested by the district administration would include money necessary to pay school employees who elected to have their pay spread over 26 pay periods for the year.

We just received information that this is not the case and we are outraged.

The district has enough cash to make payroll through June 30, 2016 for all employees, but after that point, the district will not be able to continue paying employees unless our advocacy to secure the funds through legislation is successful.

According to multiple sources, at that meeting one of the options approved was a mass sickout (where teachers call in sick) starting Monday morning. There also is a rally planned for 10 a.m. at the DPS headquarters, the Fisher Building at 3011 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.

This call for a sickout is a change in tactic for the union, that up until now had not officially endorsed the practice. Striking by public school teachers is illegal under Michigan state law.

Additional meetings of the teachers union are planned for Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss and decide next steps. The district has an operating deficit of $515 million. Although still the largest school district in the state, DPS enrollment and has fallen from having 156,182 students during the 2002-03 school year to 45,483 this school year – a decline of more than 70%.

UPDATE, 8:41 p.m. –

DPS Transition Manager Steven Rhodes has issued a statement about the sickouts.

We understand that the DFT has chosen to engage in a sickout tomorrow May 2. It is unfortunate that the DFT has chosen to make a statement in this way. I am on record as saying that I cannot in good conscience ask anyone to work without pay.  Wages that are owed to teachers should be paid. I understand the frustration and anger that our teachers feel. 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. The DFT’s choice for a drastic call to action was not necessary.

I am confident that the Michigan Legislature understands the urgency of this situation and will act in a timely manner to ensure that operations of the school district continue uninterrupted. I am working everyday with policy makers in Lansing to move this legislation forward. A districtwide sickout will be counterproductive and detrimental to the efforts of everyone working to help the District.

In my two months in office, I have established a productive working relationship with the leadership of the DFT. I look forward to continuing that strong relationship, so that jointly we can achieve our mutual goal of creating a new DPS under local control that we can be proud of.

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