Saturday 21 April 2018

Detroit schools closed as teachers call in sick amid pay fears

Schools are closed across Detroit as teachers call in sick amid a dispute about their pay
Schools are closed across Detroit as teachers call in sick amid a dispute about their pay

Most of Detroit's public schools are closed for the day after the teaching union urged members to call in sick following a weekend announcement that the district will not be able to pay school staff from this summer.

District spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in a statement on Monday morning that 87 out of 100 schools will be closed for the day. About 46,000 students are enrolled in the district's schools.

The move by the Detroit Federation of Teachers was announced on Sunday, a day after Detroit Public Schools said the district would have no money to continue paying teachers this summer without further funding from the state.

"There's a basic agreement in America: When you put in a day's work, you'll receive a day's pay," Detroit Federation of Teachers' interim president Ivy Bailey said in a statement.

"DPS is breaking that deal. Teachers want to be in the classroom giving children a chance to learn and reach their potential.

"Unfortunately, by refusing to guarantee that we will be paid for our work, DPS is effectively locking our members out of the classrooms."

In March, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law emergency funding that is keeping the district operating through the end of the school year as the state legislature considers a 720 million US dollars (£490 million) restructuring plan that would pay off the district's enormous debt.

Former bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, who was appointed this year to oversee the district, also said that DPS would be unable to fund summer school or special education programmes after June 30.

On Sunday night, he said in a statement that the union's "choice for a drastic call to action was not necessary", and said the action is "counter-productive and detrimental" to the efforts of those trying to help the school district.

"I understand the frustration and anger that our teachers feel," Mr Rhodes said. "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."

Teacher strikes are illegal under Michigan law.

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