DETROIT (WWJ) – About 2,200 students in Detroit are being forced to stay home Friday due to a teacher “sick-out” at two schools in the city.
DPS officials say East English Village Preparatory Academy and Mann Learning Community are closed Friday “because teachers from those schools have chosen not to come to work.”
According to the district, 1,839 students are enrolled at East English Village, while 397 students are enrolled at Mann Learning Center.
Just a day earlier, the emergency manager running Detroit’s troubled public schools said it’s “unacceptable” and “unethical” for teachers to call in sick and force the cancellation of classes.
Teachers for weeks have been organizing these sick-outs at schools across the district as a way to protest a number of grievances — including Governor Rick Snyder’s plans to split DPS into two separate districts. Teachers say they want to see money returned from Lansing to DPS following years of state oversight.
DPS Spokesperson Michelle Zdrodowski has said the district doesn’t disagree with the teachers’ right to protest. However, the problem arises “when these protests take away instructional time from our students.”
“To deny students their opportunity to learn in the interest of making a political statement should go against every principle a teacher holds important, and sends a terrible message to the very students to whom they are supposed to serve as role models,” Zdrodowski said in a statement. “Students should not be taught that it’s OK to shirk their responsibilities, which is the message the teachers who call in sick – without truly being sick – are sending to their students.”
Detroit Federation of Teachers President Ivy Bailey said blaming the teachers is what’s irresponsible.
“While we don’t condone the action taken by a small number of our members, we understand the utter frustration underlying it. It’s the frustration of educators who are trying to teach children in schools where black mold is spreading, in classrooms crammed with twice the number of students they should have, in schools where special needs students lack learning materials, and in high schools that no longer offer art, music or other electives,” Bailey said in a statement. “This is an emergency. And the emergency manager has failed to act. Pointing fingers at educators rather than acting to help them help kids is enough to make anyone sick.”
Mayor Mike Duggan said groups and government leaders have to come up with a plan to fix DPS so students aren’t hurt by these protests.
“We’ve got to get on top of this issue, and it’s an issue in Lansing,” he said. “I think as everybody knows, the state has been running the school system since Jennifer Granholm appointed an emergency manager about six years ago, and things have only gotten worse.”
The current proposal to fix DPS, outline by Snyder last year, calls for an “old” and “new” district — one to pay off $715 million in operating debt and the other to operate schools he says are in academic crisis.
The new Detroit Community School District would handle academic operations, payroll, health care, employee contracts and computers. The current Detroit Public Schools would remain intact for tax-collection purposes and to retire the debt.
A Detroit Education Commission – with three gubernatorial appointees and two mayoral appointees – would hire a chief education officer to craft accountability, facilities and enrollment plans. The commission could reorganize or close low-performing traditional and charter schools.
The new district’s board initially would governed by gubernatorial and mayoral appointees, transitioning to a fully elected board in 2021.
DPS has a reported $3.1 billion deficit and has been under state oversight since 2009.