- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 27 January 2016
- Written by JASMINE RAMOS | POLITICS EDITOR
On Jan. 20, 88 schools closed in Detroit, Mi., due to a teacher “sickout” protest against the underfunding of public schools. 44,790 students were unable to attend school that day.
The first “sickout” started with the closing of five schools, led by Steve Conn, the ousted president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers Union, who was expelled in August after the local’s executive board found him guilty of internal misconducted charges. This affected over 6,730 students ability to attend school.
Owing 3.5 billion in outstanding debt, Detroit public schools system could be insolvent, or unable to loans by April of this year. This could affect a recovering city trying to overcome bankruptcy; without a good standing education system, new families are not likely to move in and support the economy of the city.
Enrollment numbers are down, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In 2006, only 20% of students attended charter schools, and since 2014, this number has gone up to 55%. Other parents have opted to send their children to other public schools in suburbs.
Detroit has also come last in education every year since 2012, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress Exam.
When aware of the protest, Mayor Mike Buggan ordered district wide school inspections. He came across a dead mouse in an elementary school.
“Cockroaches, some three inches long, scuttle about until they are squashed by a student who volunteers for their task. Water drips from the leaky roof onto the gymnasium floor,” describes Julie Bosman, writer for The New York Times, of one of the public schools in Detroit.
Detroit Federation of Teachers Administrator, Ann Mitchell, explains that classes with up to 45 students have rodents, moldy and leaky ceilings, and rooms that are too hot or cold.
Various people are against the means the teachers are protesting. Representative Kevin Cotter, speaker of the house in Michigan said, “These selfish actions do nothing to help the union members who want state support for their failing school district. These part-time educators want a handout, but the state of Michigan wants confidence that an improved DPS won’t be torn apart from the inside.”
Executive Director of Michigan Associate of School Administrators said, “I think any time people use kids for a political statement, I think there has to be ramifications.”
One of the solutions brought up to help the pubic schools is to have a nine-person school board that would eventually elect a district superintendent, according to the Michigan Senate. However, others want a school board elected locally, brining an end to state-wide-appointed emergency management.
Another problem Michigan facing with state-wide- appointed management is with the water crisis of Flint, where water was poisoned by the local water supply under a state-appointed emergency manager.
Rebecca McCloskey, Specialist Professor of the School of Social Work at Monmouth University said, “I think the teachers in Detroit have the right to participate in the sick outs to draw attention to and demand change of the deplorable school conditions.” She added, “I know some are citing Michigan law which states that it is illegal for school teachers to strike. However, it seems that the human rights of the students and teachers, namely the right to education and safety must have priority.”
Taylor Buttar, junior Biology MCP student, shows her concern. “The conditions fo the Detroit schools are deplorable. It poses a health risk to the students and faculty. It should be fixed before it hurts student’s education even more than it already has.”
John Slowinski, junior education student said, “School facilities in Detriot have reached incredibly low and dangerous conditions that put the students and staff in harm’s way. As a future educator, I believe the students deserve to be in a physically safe environment, and not at risk of failing ceiling or a moldy lunch, the state needs to improve its facilities.”