Parents and students in Detroit were shocked Monday, May 2 as teachers staged a massive sick-out. According to reports, 94 of the Detroit’s 97 public schools were forced to cancel classes when at least 2,700 teachers called in to say they would not show up at school for classes. At the heart of the issue was the announcement recently that the city of Detroit could not pay teachers beyond June 30, 2016. On Sunday, May 1 the Detroit Federation of Teachers held a press conference announcing the action by the teachers. In a statement, the organization’s president, Ivy Bailey, read “by refusing to guarantee that we will be paid for our work, DPS is effectively locking our members out of the classrooms.”
In February 2016, Darnell Earley resigned from his post as emergency manager for the Detroit School District, to which he was appointed to by Gov. Rick Snyder. Earley gained notoriety as the emergency water manager for the City of Flint, Michigan when the decision was made to switch the Flint water supply to the heavily polluted Flint River. That decision made at the top levels of Michigan government has resulted in what may be the largest public health emergency crisis in the United States since Love Canal.
Thousands were affected with various health issues resulting from drinking and using water polluted with lead. His failure in his job at Flint did not stop Snyder from putting him in charge of Detroit public schools. Unfortunately, a pattern of grave errors in policy has tied his name to the most recent crisis in Detroit. Working as a teacher in the inner-city is one of the most stressful jobs a degreed professional can hold in today’s educational system. Part of this is due to the historic underfunding of these schools, but in Detroit it is compounded by a poor infrastructure in which teachers must try to educate students. Teachers have reported classroom overcrowding, mold in classrooms, collapsing ceilings and dilapidated buildings,
The Michigan legislature recently allocated $48.7 million in emergency funding to keep schools functioning through June 30, 2016 to guarantee the salaries of at least two-thirds of teachers. The new emergency manager for Detroit schools is Judge Stephen Rhodes. He has a difficult road ahead as a the city searches for a new school superintendent.