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Detroit Teachers Hold Second 'Sickout' To Push For Pay

Detroit teachers march outside the district headquarters on Monday. Nearly all of Detroit's public schools were also closed on Tuesday as teachers protest a funding gap that could mean lost paychecks.

Many of Detroit's public school teachers have stayed out of the classroom for a second day, protesting a budget shortfall that could mean no pay for hours they've already worked.

Most of the district's 97 schools are closed again while lawmakers debate a longer-term funding and restructuring plan. As The Two-Way has reported, public schools are currently funded only through June. Unless comprehensive spending legislation is passed, teachers who opt to get paid throughout the calendar year will not get paychecks for work done prior to the summer.

That's the case for "well over half of all instruction staff," Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek tells our Newscast unit. The Detroit News, citing Detroit Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski, reports that teachers on the extended pay schedule would potentially miss four paychecks, "costing them an average of $9,700 or 15 percent of their pay."

With more than 1,500 teachers calling in "sick" on Monday, more than 45,000 students were out of school, according to The Associated Press.

One parent told CNN that she had an "instant splitting headache" when she heard about the school closures:

"This is one of the most tumultuous school years our kids have experienced," said Sharlonda Buckman, CEO of the Detroit Parents Network. "They aren't getting what they need. It's disturbing. First in January ... [now] we're in May and this is still happening."

Teachers held sickouts in January to protest poor conditions, as Cwiek has reported on All Things Considered.

In a statement on the union website, the Detroit Federation of Teachers said it met with public schools Transition Manager Judge Steven Rhodes "and other decision makers" on Monday "to get an assurance that our members will be paid for their work."

"Still, they refuse to say the three words our members need to hear: 'I guarantee it,' " DFT adds. "Their failure to give us that guarantee is tantamount to a lock-out. And since we have not gotten the guarantee that members will be paid."

The legislation that would solidify this funding was up for debate in Michigan's House of Representatives on Tuesday. The state Senate passed a similar package in March.

But there are key differences between the House and Senate versions, MLive reports, including whether to establish a Detroit Education Commission and whether to give back local control of the school board.

State House Speaker Kevin Cotter said the teachers union "is once again putting the wants of adults ahead of the needs of children." The statement, posted Monday, added:

"These egotistical teachers have lashed out at the children who rely on them and accomplished nothing but disrupting their students' education. Their selfish and misguided plea for attention only makes it harder for us to enact a rescue plan and makes it harder for Detroit's youngest residents to get ahead and build a future for themselves."

The union was rallying this morning and was set to have a membership meeting this afternoon.

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