While more than 6,000 children in Detroit Public Schools have recently been shut out of their classrooms because teachers are staging sickout strikes, charter school students can still attend their classes.

“It’s a shame that children in Detroit are being used as political pawns by the adults,” said Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, the state's association of public charter schools. “Thousands of students are being kept out of class because of these selfish actions, and parents should be furious. This isn’t happening at charter schools, and it’s no surprise that charter schools are as popular as they are in Detroit.”

While public schools in Michigan are unionized, just six of the 302 charter schools in the state have teacher unions.

Two schools in DPS were closed Friday because teachers called in sick: East English Village Preparatory Academy and Mann Learning Community. Earlier in the week, Cass Tech High School, King High School and Renaissance High school were also closed due to sickouts. The total enrollment of the five schools that had to close is 6,949; statistics from the Michigan School database from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy suggests that actual attendance is 6,162.

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Teachers have been protesting a number of issues. Among the most significant is Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to split the district into two parts. Also, the teachers want DPS to revert to local control (it has been under state oversight since 2009) and receive more funding from the state.

Before Friday's sickouts took place, Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid, publicly called on State Superintendent Brian Whiston to impose sanctions on the striking teachers.

“This is selfish behavior and a blatant attempt to circumvent the law barring the Detroit Federation of Teachers membership from walking away from their responsibilities and striking,” Kelly said. “I’m encouraging Mr. Whiston to look at all available options in sanctioning the DFT.”

“These actions by certain DPS teachers [do] absolutely nothing to address or correct the problems tied to the district,” Kelly added. “All it’s doing is damaging the education of thousands of students.”

On Friday, Kelly said that Whiston has assured him that he is looking into the situation.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers didn't respond to a request for comment.

The union has publicly taken the stance that it is not involved with the sickout strikes. Ivy Bailey, the DFT's interim president, told Frank Beckman of WJR-AM on January 7 that she “personally” hoped there wouldn’t be more strikes. She also said, “the teachers were advocates for the children" and there needs to be “a major investment in Detroit kids and their future.”

Kelly said on the Beckman show on January 8 that he believes the best prospect for the kids of Detroit is to “turn them loose and let them go to where they can best be served; that would include, I think, private schools and charter schools.”

He also said the strikes aren’t helping the teachers’ cause.

“They only dissipate any kind of support they have in Lansing,” Kelly said.

Meanwhile, the children in Detroit who are enrolled in charter schools are still able to pursue their education each school day.

“Charter schools are truly making a difference,” Quisenberry said. “There’s an important discussion that needs to take place about education in Detroit, and it isn’t helping matters when selfish adults are putting their needs first.”


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