With more than 50 Detroit Public schools closed due to a teacher protest, concerned parents, a few students and angered teachers descended on DPS headquarters the Fisher Building in Detroit’s New Center area. The rally underscores the DPS teachers’ demands that not only their voices be heard, but that a change be made, and quickly. Teachers are also complaining about teaching classes in school facilities with deplorable conditions.
Many shouted “Rick Snyder is a bully” at the top of their lungs with bull horns inside the famed theater at noon on Monday, Jan.11. Police quickly asked them to leave and ushered protesters out, while others shouted “Detroit kids matter”.
The teacher sickout has forced the closing of more than half of Detroit’s public schools, with 64 schools and 31,000 students being effected.
Teachers participating in the protest rally “Thirty-five is a speed limit, not a class size.” Gail Lee a Detroit Public Schools demanded school administrators address classroom working conditions, while holding a sign that read, “We love our students.”
“I am angered that the citizens in Detroit have lost their schools and the parents don’t see it as a problem,” said Lee, a teacher at Early Intervention for DPS. “The deficit is higher and now they’re reporting that in April, they’re gonna run out of money.”
Teachers, secretaries and teacher’s aids have won some bargaining concessions, but many report not much has changed or been fixed.
“I believe that the money is there for the district, but they just aren’t giving it to DPS,” said Lee.
Lee said she feels that they should be treated like other districts in the state of Michigan as she cited the special treatment that Canton, Westland and the Gross Pointes school systems.
After being asked what problems she fills will be solved after this rally, Lee said she hopes that the parents become aware of the problems teachers and students face due to under funding and neglect. “It’s giving us a chance to defend ourselves,” said Lee. “And by April, the district will be out of money so we’re here forcing our governor to come up with a solution.”
Lucky for Lee and many others, their protest caught Mayor Michael Duggan’s attention.
Mayor Duggan said he understands the teacher’s frustration but the children need their teachers in the classrooms. He encourages the teachers to end the ‘sick-out’ and encourages the state officials to move quickly to address these pressing educational problems. “We choose not to wait until April to be without a job so we are here,” said Lee. If our Mayor can’t or won’t do anything, we need President Obama because if he can bail the auto industry out, I’m pretty sure he can do the same for the Detroit Public System as well.”
City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, also joined he rally in support of striking teachers, shouting, “I stand with you … We can no longer be silent,” to the crowd outside of the Fisher Building.
More schools are expected to be effected by the continued sick out.