Tensions continued to flare in Detroit Public Schools this week, as a statement from Transition Manager Steven Rhodes prompted a two-day teacher sickout on Monday and Tuesday. Rhodes warned that teachers who have their pay distributed across 26 weeks may not be paid after June 30 if the state legislature does not pass a long-term solution to the district’s financial crisis. In addition to the uncertainty over receiving pay for work teachers have already done, DPS educators also continued to raise awareness of inadequate learning conditions in many of the district’s buildings. After two days of protests, and even commentary from the Obama administration pushing officials to work quickly towards a solution, Rhodes assured teachers that they would be paid through the summer, and teachers returned to the classroom on Wednesday.
In Lansing, state legislators worked through the night on Wednesday to pass a long-term fix for the district. Currently, the Republican-led House is proposing a package of bills that would devote $500 million to alleviating the district’s debt, while enacting several provisions that would limit collective bargaining and lower teacher certification standards. The House bills also does not include provisions for the creation of the previously proposed Detroit Education Commission – a single body that would regulate the opening and closing of charter and traditional public district schools, as well as provide a unified gateway for student enrollment in public schools throughout the city. Critics of the House bills have stated that $500 million is not enough to give the district the kind of financial overhaul it needs to recover, and will end up as taxpayer money wasted on a stopgap solution. The estimate by Rhodes indicated that the district actually needs closer to $800 million. A previous bipartisan proposal from the Senate had called for $715 million to go to DPS, along with the creation of the Detroit Education Commission, but that plan has been stalled since March due to lack of support from the House.