Only three public schools were open Tuesday in Detroit due to widespread teacher sick-outs, and while some parents took the educators’ sides, many state lawmakers were not so understanding as they took up legislation that would remedy the pay issues at the heart of the protest.
“These egotistical teachers have lashed out at the children who rely on them and accomplished nothing but disrupting their students’ education,” Michigan Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, a Republican, said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “Their selfish and misguided plea for attention only makes it harder for us to enact a rescue plan.”
Tuesday was the second day of sick-outs organized by the Detroit Federation of Teachers over a weekend announcement that, without more funding, the local public school district couldn’t afford to pay teachers after June 30. Union members are prevented from striking in Michigan, so they collectively called in ill, canceling classes at 94 institutions.
“Teachers have mortgage payments, utility bills, grocery bills,” union president Ivy Bailey said in a news release. “Being paid for their work isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
The state House was scheduled to examine seven bills that could inject cash into the school system Tuesday. One set of laws would pay off the district’s operating debt of $515 million while designating another $200 million to set up an entirely new school system, according to the Free Press.
In the meantime, lawmakers were speaking out about the sick-out. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, a Republican, called the protest over wages “irresponsible and counterproductive,” MLive.com reported. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder labeled the sick-out, which kept more than 45,000 kids out of school Monday, “not constructive,” according to the Associated Press.
Those feelings weren’t universal. Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy organization, shot back in a statement to MLive.com, calling Cotter’s comments “sophomoric.” Republican State House Appropriations Committee Chairman Al Pscholka said Tuesday it was time to act because “the future of Detroit’s schoolchildren ... is on the line,” the AP reported.
The disagreement also played out on social media, where Twitter users posted their opinions and referenced similar demonstrations in January over the deteriorating condition of Detroit’s school buildings. See a few messages here:
— Progress Michigan (@ProgressMich) May 2, 2016
— David Knezek (@DavidKnezek) May 2, 2016
Deplorable buildings, lead in water, no air conditioning/heating, low pay, hard conditions — welcome to life of a #DPS teacher
— Sam Inglot (@saminglot) May 3, 2016
— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) May 3, 2016
Potvin (R) says he wants a prosecutor to go after the union after sick-outs #mileg
— David Eggert (@DavidEggert00) May 3, 2016
It's time for people to stop putting politics before children! https://t.co/CuElpEZRSs
— Michigan GOP (@MIGOP) May 2, 2016