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Fighting Words: Detroit Public Schools Official Criticizes Teacher Sick-Outs

Fighting Words: Detroit Public Schools Official Criticizes Teacher Sick-Outs

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Steven Rhodes criticized the district’s teachers yesterday for the sick-outs that kept nearly all schools in the district closed for two consecutive days.

Over 1,500 teachers called out on Monday and Tuesday in protest of word from Rhodes and other DPS officials that severe budget problems meant the district might not be able to pay teachers past June 30. For teachers who opt to have their salaries distributed across the whole year-over two-thirds of DPS teachers- the thought of not receiving earned salary was preposterous.

The protests ended following a message from Rhodes that guaranteed teachers pay, but district officials have come out since to criticize teachers for their reaction.

Rhodes said the protests may cost the already cash-strapped district over $4 million in state aid and hurt students who were forced to lose out on instructional time.

Rhodes called the sick-outs an "unfortunate and unnecessary strike" that "threatens the community’s ability to achieve our shared goal of a new, locally governed DPS that can give our students the best possible education."

He also criticized the teachers for “alienating lawmakers” who are in the middle of passing legislation that would be “life-saving legislation” for the district, The Detroit Free Press said.

Going forward, he said the sick-outs have the potential to affect recruitment of new students and teachers in the consistently shrinking district.

This isn’t the first time Detroit teachers have used sick-outs to call attention to issues with district officials. Earlier in the year, teachers used the form of protest to bring national attention to school buildings in disrepair. Shared images from social media revealed classrooms with mold, leaky pipes and buckling floors.

Many teachers and supporters took to social media following Rhodes' letter to fight back.

"Pay cuts, decimated schools, institutional racism, isolated poverty...who to blame? Teachers of course,” one educator said via Twitter.


Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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