Another showdown today over Detroit schools

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

This morning is the latest showdown over Detroit Public Schools as district leaders try to get a court to halt the massive teacher “sickouts” that have closed dozens of schools over the past two months.

Last week, the school district filed suit against the Detroit Federation of Teachers and other groups, asking the Michigan Court of Claims to bar what the district says are illegal strikes.

But the court refused to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the recurring teacher sickouts that have closed dozens of schools. A hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. in the suit.

Whether there will be another widespread sickout today is unclear: teachers battling district officials have called for an 11 a.m. rally outside the West Grand Boulevard courthouse.

“I think there will be a lot of teachers there,” at the rally, said Steve Conn, one of the lead defendants in a lawsuit filed by the district, on Sunday evening. He added he didn’t know whether that would result in school closings.

On Sunday evening, Detroit Public Schools posted on its Facebook page that all schools are scheduled to be open Monday.

Conn and other Detroit educators are trying keep the pressure on Gov. Rick Snyder’s plans for the district and the DPS Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

“Our goal is to turn the tables tomorrow and put Snyder and Earley on trial,” Conn said in a news release issued Sunday. Conn was elected by teachers to lead the Detroit Federation of Teachers last year but the union’s executive board ousted him over misconduct charges.

“We plan to ask the judge for a full evidentiary hearing in which Detroit students, teachers and parents can testify in court about exactly how Snyder and Earley have caused irreparable harm to the public schools and the young people of Detroit,” Conn said in the release.

Teachers have staged a series of sickouts over the past two months, including a mass call-off last week that forced DPS to close 88 of its 97 schools. Also

The school district names in the lawsuit 23 teachers, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, interim DFT President Ivy Bailey and organized sickout supporters such as DPS Teachers Fight Back.

According to the district’s complaint, more than 31,000 of the district’s 46,000 students have missed a day of school or more as a result of sickouts.

At the hearing, the district will request a preliminary injunction barring further sickouts. Michigan law prohibits strikes by public employees.

In February, the debt payments of DPS are set to balloon to an amount nearly equal to the school district’s payroll and benefits as the school system teeters on the edge of insolvency.

The debt costs continue to mount while Snyder and the Legislature remain at odds over how to rescue Michigan’s largest school district.