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DPS teachers plan mass sickout Monday, after news of effective payless paydays

Detroit teachers protest during a January sickout.
Kate Wells
Michigan Radio
Detroit teachers protest during a January sickout.

For the first time in months, Detroit teachers are planning to hold a mass sickout Monday—and for the first time ever, union leaders are helping lead the call for it.

This comes after the Detroit Federation of Teachers leadership informed members that many teachers could end up shorted on their pay this year.

The situation involves Detroit Public Schools staff who elect to be paid biweekly year-round, not just during the school year.

DPS stands on the verge of financial collapse without state action on a long-term aid package. The State Senate passed a $720 million bankruptcy-style restructuring package in March, but the legislation is still sitting in the State House.

The state legislature did approve $48.7 million in supplementary funds in March, to keep DPS schools open through the end of the school year.

But in an email sent to members this weekend, DFT interim president Ivy Bailey said she was shocked to discover that teachers on the year-round pay schedule won’t get paid after June 30th.

“When it first came to our attention in March that DPS would not have enough cash to make payroll through the end of the school year, we asked and were told that the $48.7 million in supplemental funding requested by the district administration would include money necessary to pay school employees who elected to have their pay spread over 26 pay periods for the year,” Bailey wrote.

“We just received information that this is not the case and we are outraged.”

Bailey said she “insisted” on meeting with the DPS emergency manager, Judge Steven Rhodes, on Monday “to develop a solution to this problem.”

But during an emergency DFT meeting called Sunday, leadership was on board with calls for another mass sickout to protest being asked to work for free. A rally is planned outside DPS headquarters in Detroit Monday morning.

Teachers drew national attention to the district’s collapsing finances and poor school conditions through a string of sickouts that peaked in January. However, those protests were member-driven, and union leaders never formally led the call for them.

However, the district’s position is that the news about effective payless paydays shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.

"The $48.7 million in supplemental funding recently passed by the Michigan Legislature will provide enough funding for DPS to pay all employees through the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2016. However, without the passage of the more comprehensive $715 million education reform package that is now being considered by the Michigan House of Representatives, there will be no funds available to pay DPS employees – those teachers on a 26-pay cycle included,” Rhodes said in a statement the district issued Saturday.

“There also will be no funds available for the District to conduct Summer School or provide the year-round special education services that a number of our students rely on. I urge our legislators to act thoughtfully, but with the urgency that this situation demands.”

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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