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Two-Thirds of Detroit Schools Close Due to Teacher ‘Sick-Out;' Could Strike Be Near?

Two-Thirds of Detroit Schools Close Due to Teacher ‘Sick-Out;' Could Strike Be Near?

Despite the Detroit school system telling parents on Sunday to expect a possibility of closed schools Monday morning due to a ‘minority’ of teachers staying home in protest, it was forced to keep thousands of students home today after two-thirds of its schools were closed.

The “sick-out” was organized by local labor leader Steve Conn in preparation for building a statewide strike. Interestingly enough, though the city’s main teachers union- the Detroit Federation of Teachers- is aware of the frustration and poor working conditions for the city’s teacher force, it did not have any involvement with sanctioning the sick-outs.

And though Conn claims to have affiliations with the union, the DFT says he was removed from his position as the elected DFT president last year, CNN reported. Detroit teachers are experiencing much frustration because the district is “starved” for funding, something the school system acknowledges.

But as is the case with many teacher strikes (see: Chicago), the system is calling for the state legislature to act. "We understand and share (the teachers') frustration...given the reality of the District's financial distress, it is becoming clearer every day that the only way that we are going to be able to address these serious issues in any way is through an investment in DPS by the Michigan Legislature,” school system's emergency manager, Darnell Earley said.

But the legislature does not seem poised to act anytime soon. A $715m proposal to overhaul the failing district in 2016 proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder has received little support thus far, The Guardian said.

Though this is the largest sick-out the city has yet seen, it hasn’t been the first. Throughout the past few weeks, several of the city’s schools have been forced to close due to high teacher absences.

"Last week, nearly a half-dozen schools closed for at least one day due to teacher sickouts,” reported The Guardian. 

The State’s Superintendent of Schools Brian Whiston, along with many other of the system’s officials, urged teachers to reconsider their method of protest, arguing they should be in classrooms teaching despite the valid "financial, academic, and structural” concerns they have.

But teachers aren’t alone in their concern for the future of public education in the city.

"Detroit’s public schools have been a problem for Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, a Republican who ushered the city into the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. Most observers agree the success of Detroit is contingent upon whether its schools can be fixed,” The Guardian said.

And the teachers argue that keeping students home in their protest won’t hurt them anymore than they’ve already been hurt. Only one-third of Detroit’s high school students, The Guardian said, are proficient in reading and most are struggling to achieve due to class sizes that are increasingly growing.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

1/11/2016

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