Judge refuses to order Detroit teachers to halt sickouts

Story highlights

NEW: Judge turns down request for restraining order against Detroit teachers

NEW: A hearing is scheduled for Monday to discuss the request

Teachers have been staging mass sickouts for more than a week

CNN  — 

Detroit public school teachers can keep staging sickouts – at least for the time being, a judge ruled Thursday.

The judge refused Detroit Public Schools request to issue a temporary restraining order that would have stopped public school teachers from calling sickouts.

The teachers have closed dozens of the city’s schools with the sickouts, called to protest working conditions and inadequate funding.

The judge scheduled a Monday hearing in the Court of Claims to discuss the request for a preliminary injunction in the case.

“The DFT (Detroit Federation of Teachers) is pleased that the court denied the district’s request for an immediate restraining order,” DFT President Ivy Bailey said. “We look forward to continuing the fight for our members, our community and the schools our kids deserve.”

A spokeswoman for the Detroit Public Schools, Michelle A. Zdrodowski, said it’s “extremely important” the court help to resolve the issue.

“We look forward to the opportunity to inform the court of the serious effects that these continued sickouts have on the district, its students and their families at the hearing on Monday,” she said.

Detroit schools reopened Thursday. Teachers have been staging mass sickouts for more than a week.

Nine out of 10 public schools were closed Wednesday. The sickouts coincided with President Obama’s visit to the North American International Auto Show in the city.

Teachers complain about mildew, rats

Teachers have complained of mildew taking over ceilings and walls, damage to school buildings and equipment and rats running rampant through the halls.

“It is regrettable that the Detroit Public Schools seeks to punish those who speak out about the deplorable conditions in our schools,” Bailey said. “It would be so much more productive to actually do something to fix Detroit schools rather than file restraining orders against those who expose the miserable conditions.”

The speaker of the House in Michigan called for absentee teachers to be dismissed.

“These teachers deserve to be fired for turning their backs on the children in their care,” said Kevin Cotter, a Republican from Mount Pleasant. “Their actions also go against any possible resolution on potential (Detroit Public Schools) reforms, because any long-term agreement on Detroit schools has to put the kids first.”

Cotter said more than 700,000 instructional hours have been lost.

Blame game

One man who has been a frequent target of critics is Darnell Earley, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder a year ago to oversee Detroit Public Schools.

Before going to Detroit, Earley served as the emergency manager in Flint. He was in that position in April 2014 when Flint’s water supply switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a decision reversed more than a year later after reports of corroded pipes and elevated blood lead levels.

Earley has said he was not responsible for the decision, only for implementing it after it was approved.

In his State of the State address Tuesday night, the governor called for money spent on debt service, close to $1,200 per student, to be shifted into classroom funding to give teachers what they need to do their jobs.

“(The) time to act is now,” he told lawmakers. “The Detroit schools are in need of a transformational change.

“The state needs to ensure that a complete failure to educate schoolchildren never again happens to this extent in one of Michigan’s districts.”

Flint water crisis timeline

Debt debacle

A proposal introduced last week in the state Legislature would appear to find a way of doing just that while handling the school system’s massive $515 million debt.

It would create a second school district within the city that assumes control over all of its schools and students, while leaving the current Detroit Public Schools system with only the district’s debt, said Republican state Sen. Goeff Hansen, author of the proposal.

“It’s a high priority. It’s an emergency situation,” Hansen said.

About $7,400 of school funding is allocated per student each year. But close to $1,200 of that goes to pay down debt and other costs, Hansen said.

Under the proposal, tax revenue would continue to pay off the debt isolated in the DPS system, but the state would gain room to inject additional funding into the new school system.

It has left many teachers worried that Detroit Public Schools will go out of existence, said Bailey, the teachers union leader. Under the current system, funding could run out by April.

“Teachers are fed up and have had enough.”

CNN’s Jean Casaraz, John Newsome, Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, Greg Botelho and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.