Detroit teachers returned to classrooms today after the district’s emergency manager pledged to pay employees for work already done, despite the city school system’s financial troubles.
Planned protests closed 94 of the district’s 97 schools Monday and Tuesday, leaving tens of thousands of students out of class. Detroit teachers called out sick en masse to protest the possibility of payless paydays.
Steven Rhodes, the district’s emergency manager, warned that the school system may not be able to pay its employees after June 30. That would affect teachers, and others, who have their pay spread over the entire year instead of just the school year.
Ivy Bailey, interim president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that Rhodes sent a letter late Tuesday assuring that those employees would indeed be paid despite the district’s mounting debt. State lawmakers also reassured the district that teachers will be compensated for their work.
“It’s astonishing that teachers and other school employees have been working diligently to educate our kids in under-resourced schools with deplorable conditions, yet they had to fight to get what they’re due,” Bailey said. “That’s adding insult to injury. We’re happy to return to the classroom and finish the school year with our kids.”
The latest string of sickouts drew national attention to the district. The Detroit Free Press reported that the White House called for an end to the teacher protest on Tuesday, urging a quick compromise between the union and district leaders.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten visited Detroit on Tuesday to support the local union.
“We’ve been working 24/7 to secure the assurance that educators will be fully paid for the school year, so they can go back to the classroom and do what they love to do—teach their students,” Weingarten said in a statement. “It is a fundamental right to be paid for the work one does. Anything other than that is dead wrong and tantamount to wage theft.”
For a look at previous blog posts on the Detroit school system, click here.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.