Teaching Profession

Teacher Protests Close Dozens of Detroit Schools

By Corey Mitchell — January 11, 2016 2 min read
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More than 60 Detroit public schools were closed Monday morning as frustrated teachers continue to protest pay and benefit concessions, large class sizes, and Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to overhaul the district.

The mass protest, which led officials to shut down more than half of the district’s schools for the day, is the latest in a series of coordinated “sickouts.” The district has about 46,000 students in its 107 school buildings.

Steven Conn, the ousted former president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, is leading the effort, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press reported.

Conn said that “an all-out strike will be the only way to save public education in Detroit,” the Detroit News reported.

The coordinated “sickouts,” where teachers call out sick en masse, began in November and have grown in size and scope since.

Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan, but union officials in Detroit are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss possible labor action, the Detroit News reports.

Back in August, the Detroit Federation of Teachers’ executive board found Conn guilty of misconduct at an internal trial. Among the charges he faced was failing to address complaints of member abuses and failing to pass the required portion of member dues up to the American Federation of Teachers, the DFT’s parent union. As my colleague Stephen Sawchuk reports, Conn has often “took a hardline stance against the city’s emergency manager and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposals.”

Amid the unrest plaguing the district, the AFT assumed control of its Detroit local’s operations back in December.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan wants to turn control of the city’s school back to an elected school board, effectively ending emergency management of the Detroit schools.

The school system has been under state oversight since March 2009, a period during which the district has lost tens of thousands of students, closed dozens of schools, and struggled with persistent budget deficits.

Gov. Snyder’s has different plans for the troubled, debt-ridden school system, including splitting the district into two.

Under Snyder’s $715 million overhaul, the first district would exist merely to pay down more than a half a billion dollars in debt.

The second district would be responsible for educating students. That system would be run initially by a board appointed by the governor and the mayor of Detroit, but by 2021 would become an elected board.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.