The Detroit News reports that 15,600 students in the Walled Lake School District didn't have school Wednesday because bus drivers called in sick.
The Walled Lake school board last week voted to contract out for busing to save money. Walled Lake Superintendent Kenneth Gutman told The News that contracting will save the district $1.4 million a year.
In addition to that $1.4 million, Walled Lake will save money on workers' compensation and legacy costs, according to the West Oakland Spinal Column.
This money is not trivial — the district needs to erase a $10 million deficit. And, current bus drivers would have the opportunity to continue working with the district. Kellie Dean, the owner of the company that Walled Lake will contract with, told the school board Tuesday night that he wants to hire the district's current bus drivers, and that their seniority would be taken into account.
The bus drivers likely won't be paid as much, but how could they expect to, given the financial condition of the district? The money saved by contracting out transportation services will be used to forgo cuts in other areas: The district will have $1.4 million more to spend on educating students.
Public employee strikes are illegal in Michigan. However, "sick-outs" are common. On Dec. 11, some 26,000 Michigan students were denied their education because teachers in the Warren, Taylor and Fitzgerald school districts called in sick to protest pending right-to-work legislation. The president of the Taylor Federation of Teachers even received an award for it.
In 2011, about 40 percent of West Bloomfield teachers didn't show up to work to protest contract negotiations.
The Walled Lake bus drivers who called in "sick" likely will still receive their paycheck at the end of the month. Instead of being paid for a day spent using Walled Lake students to exact revenge on officials faced with tough decisions, the bus drivers should be fined.
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