The vast majority of buildings within Detroit Public Schools — 91 percent — were closed on Wednesday, thanks to teachers not showing up to work. Think about that for a second.
It means most of the district’s nearly 50,000 students didn’t have a place to go that day. They didn’t get the chance to learn anything, and their parents were left figuring out how to take care of their children last minute. In addition, many Detroit children eat most of their meals at school. When schools close, they don’t have that option.
This “sickout” has had the widest impact so far, but it follows a string of similar actions earlier this month and last year.
Such a widespread teacher sickout is clearly a strike, which is illegal in Michigan. Public employees are not allowed to strike, but that obviously isn’t scaring these teachers. That’s because current law makes it tedious for school administrators to prove strikes took place, as well as punish offending teachers and their unions.
Under the law, teachers can face fines or losing their job. But the law needs to be changed so that district officials can discipline striking teachers in a much more prompt fashion. Senate Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, is working on legislation that would do just that, and he should pursue it as quickly as possible.
Teachers have given lots of reasons for striking, from support of ousted Detroit Federation of Teachers President Steve Conn to bad school conditions to the fact President Barack Obama visited Detroit Wednesday.
In the end, the reason doesn’t matter. There is no excuse to block that many children from the classroom.