Leaders of the Detroit Federation of Teachers learned over the weekend that the district would run out of emergency state funding at the end of June, according to the Detroit News.
That means that unless the state legislature passes a plan to rescue the system, Detroit Public Schools won’t be able to make payroll over the summer, leaving teachers unpaid for work they did during the school year.
Union officials said that teachers who receive their annual salary in 26 installments risk not being paid for any work they do after April 28.
“There’s a basic agreement in America: When you put in a day’s work, you’ll receive a day’s pay. DPS is breaking that deal,” Ivy Bailey, the union’s interim president, said in a statement. “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.”
Teachers rallied at the school system’s headquarters Detroit on Monday morning to “protest the news that Detroit educators will not be paid for their work,” according to a news release.
On Monday evening, the union indicated that the sickout would extend for a second day on Tuesday. “We do not work for free and therefore we do not expect you to report to school tomorrow,” Bailey wrote to members.
The school system has a $515 million operating debt and a total debt that exceeds $3 billion.
Lawmakers responded with $48.7 million in emergency funding, enough to keep the system afloat until June 30. The Senate passed a longer-term $715 million fix; the House is now debating that plan.
“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,” Rhodes, a retired federal judge, said in a statement. “I am working everyday with policy makers in Lansing to move this legislation forward.”
Rhodes said that it was “unfortunate” that the union had called for a sickout, saying it was “counterproductive and detrimental.”
“I am on record as saying that I cannot in good conscience ask anyone to work without pay,” Rhodes said. “Wages that are owed to teachers should be paid. I understand the frustration and anger that our teachers feel. 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.”
Under Michigan law, teachers may not strike, but Detroit teachers have staged multiple sickouts in recent months to protest the deplorable conditions of the city’s school buildings.