Rhodes blasts Detroit teachers union for sickout

The Detroit News

In an “open letter” issued Thursday, the state-appointed leader of Detroit Public Schools slammed the teachers union for the sickout that shut most of the district’s schools for two days this week, saying it hurt students and jeopardized a hoped-for rescue by the state.

Emergency Manager Steven Rhodes said the “recent strike” by the Detroit Federation of Teachers “threatens the community’s ability to achieve our shared goal of a new, locally governed DPS that can give our students the best possible education.”

Rhodes also said the action inconvenienced parents, deprived students of instructional time and may cost the district $4 million in lost state aid, “which is equivalent to the amount necessary to hire 40 teachers.”

Rhodes also said the sickout “kept more than 45,000 students out of the classroom for two days of instruction and deprived children, children!, of a nutritious breakfast and lunch, as well as a hot supper for many.”

The retired bankruptcy judge, named to head DPS March 1, issued the letter hours after the Michigan House approved a $500 million rescue plan that would pay off DPS debts. The legislation must be reconciled with a Senate version that would provide $715 million.

In a separate statement Thursday, Rhodes said the district needs the extra amount included in the Senate bill to cover startup costs for a new, debt-free Detroit school district.

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Teachers staged the sickout Monday and Tuesday after Rhodes said last weekend that unless lawmakers agreed on a rescue package, the district would run out of money June 30 and be unable to pay teachers, many of whom receive part of their wages over the summer. Teachers returned to work Wednesday after Rhodes assured the DFT that paychecks would continue to be issued.

In his letter Thursday, Rhodes said the DFT made it harder to win approval of the rescue legislation by calling for the sickout.

“It puzzled, angered and alienated state legislators of both political parties at the very moment that they are considering lifesaving legislation for DPS,” he wrote.

DFT interim president Ivy Bailey did not immediately respond Thursday evening to a request for comment.