(DETROIT) — Detroit Public School teachers are fighting for their paychecks by initiating a “sick out” Monday that has closed over 90 of the 105 public schools in the city.
“The teachers feel, and I feel, that no one is listening to us when we try to explain what’s going on here. I feel like we’re being held hostage by our legislatures,” Detroit Federation of Teachers interim president Ivy Bailey told ABC News Monday. “The teachers are not only fighting for themselves, but more importantly, they’re fighting for their students.”
“We have teachers who are on 26 pay periods,” Bailey explained. “What happens is they take their salary and they pro-rate it throughout the year [with] additional pay periods in the summer, so they can get paid over the summer — because teachers do not get paid in the summer.”
She explained that the state gave the district $48.7 million to get through the rest of the school year but that did not include money to cover summer payments.
“When we figured out what was going on and looked at the payments of those teachers, technically Thursday of last week is the last day that they’re actually being paid,” Bailey said.
“In theory, they’re working without pay,” she said. “There’s no guarantee — based on what the district has told us — that they will receive payment after June 30, which is not fair. No one should work for free. And so rightfully so, we’re all upset about that.”
Bailey said when they asked if the money they received would include money for all employees who are on a 26 pay period, they were told “yes.”
She said this is not happening anywhere else in Michigan — just Detroit, where the economy has been struggling for years.
Detroit schools are currently under a state of financial emergency and are run by an emergency manager instead of a school board and superintendent.
“I’m hoping today will accomplish an awareness across the city of Detroit — what’s happening to our schools systems is an atrocity,” Bailey said. “If you are an emergency manager and you’re supposed to be the person who came here to straighten out our finances, and now they’re worse than they ever were … I believe we have every right to be upset. And there is no accountability for what has gone on with these emergency mangers.”
Detroit Public Schools did not immediately provide a comment on Monday, but Transition Manager Judge Steven Rhodes said in a statement Sunday evening that the planned “sick out” would be “counterproductive and detrimental.”
“It is unfortunate that the DFT [Detroit Federation of Teachers] has chosen to make a statement in this way,” Rhodes said.
“I am on record as saying that I cannot in good conscience ask anyone to work without pay. Wages that are owed to teachers should be paid. I understand the frustration and anger that our teachers feel,” 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. The DFT’s choice for a drastic call to action was not necessary.”
“I am confident that the Michigan Legislature understands the urgency of this situation and will act in a timely manner to ensure that operations of the school district continue uninterrupted,” he said, adding that he’s working with policy makers in Lansing “to move this legislation forward.”
“A district-wide sick out will be counterproductive and detrimental to the efforts of everyone working to help the District,” he said. Rhodes said he hopes to continue his “strong relationship” with the Detroit Federation of Teachers “so that jointly we can achieve our mutual goal of creating a New DPS under local control that we can be proud of.”
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