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More DPS "sickouts;" emergency manager fires back

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Two more Detroit Public Schools were closed for teacher “sickouts” on Thursday.

This time, it was Detroit’s Renaissance and Martin Luther King high schools.

On Tuesday, it was Cass Technical High School. And there have been a number of other schools over the past few weeks.

Participating teachers, prohibited from striking by Michigan law, say it’s the only recourse they have to protest everything from overcrowded classrooms to Lansing’s dithering as the state-run district nears insolvency.

DPS officials said parents, students and the community should be “outraged.”

"I don't disagree with anyone's right to protest," DPS emergency manager Darnell Earley said Thursday. But "using students as pawns to advance a political position in my opinion is not only unacceptable, it is also very unethical."

Earley said he’s been talking with Gov. Snyder’s office, and also called on state lawmakers to address the district’s “restructuring” with a sense of urgency. It’s expected to run out of cash before the end of this school year.

The first sickouts were organized by the activist group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), and ousted Detroit Federation of Teachers President Steve Conn. However, they appear to have gained their own momentum.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, now run by an American Federation of Teachers trustee, hasn’t been involved in the protests.

But in a statement released late Thursday, DFT interim President Ivy Bailey put the blame squarely on Earley.

“While we don't condone the action taken by a small number of our members, we understand the utter frustration underlying it,” Bailey said. “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, where special needs students lack learning materials, and high schools that no longer offer art, music or other electives.

“This is an emergency. And the emergency manager has failed to act.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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