From the January-February 2016 issue of News & Letters
Detroit—Schoolteachers in Detroit began a sick-out on Monday, Jan. 11, closing 60 schools and idling 47,000 students, around 85% of the district population. Their actions give the lie to state-imposed Emergency Manager Darnell Earley’s claims that only a tiny fraction of “radical” teachers is hindering his efforts to improve the Detroit Public Schools.
Monday’s rally of several hundred teachers sent Michigan Governor Snyder a message, with chants like “Detroit won’t go to the back of the bus! Public education is a must!” and “Dirty buildings, dirty food, dirty politics!” Signs read: “My kindergarteners are better listeners than Governor Snyder” “Standing up 4 my students!” “I love my students” and “Enough is enough!”
The reasons Detroit teachers got so sick and tired include this description of their classrooms: “Mice, rats, leaking ceilings falling in large chunks, black mold on the walls.” Classrooms are designed for the contractual maximum of 25 to 34 students, but often hold 40 or more. There are supply shortages, antiquated and broken technology, and inexperienced young teachers assigned to teach classes out of their subject area.
Adding insult to injury were two 10% pay cuts in the past decade, and greatly increased healthcare costs. There is no local control: Public Act 436 disempowered the elected school board.
Students whose schools were closed were not deprived of education. They had the opportunity to learn that the fight is ongoing and that true power is collective power guided by the ideas of freedom and dignity.
—Susan Van Gelder