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Earley Resignation and Strike Bills: MI Parents, Teachers Speak Out

There are calls for a fully empowered school board for Detroit Public Schools. (pixabay)
There are calls for a fully empowered school board for Detroit Public Schools. (pixabay)
February 3, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - Some parents and teachers say the resignation of Detroit's emergency manager is a step in the right direction, but may not be enough to improve the systemic issues in city schools.

It was announced Tuesday that Darnell Earley will step down at the end of the month after mounting criticism over school conditions, the district's $515 million deficit and teacher shortages.

While she said she's relieved that Earley is out, Wytrice Harris, who has two children at Renaissance High School, added that she fears another emergency manager will be appointed.

"As a parent, I need there to be public voice and accountability," she said, "and one man stepping down and someone else filling the position that shouldn't exist at all is really a drop in the bucket on what really needs to happen."

Harris is among those calling for a fully empowered school board and establishment of a commission to oversee the opening and closing of schools.

Also on Tuesday, a Senate committee approved a package of bills to punish teachers and school districts that participate in illegal strikes. Recent teacher "sickouts" have drawn attention to the poor conditions of Detroit schools.

David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan, said there already are fines and other punishments in place for teacher strikes. He said he feels the legislation goes too far and that, in his view, teachers should not be reprimanded for speaking up about deplorable conditions.

"We showed a few blown-up pictures to the committee of the dead rats in a special education building, of the leaking - not just the leaking ceiling, but over electrical lights - obviously a million times worse," he said. "We had big, blow-up pictures of cockroaches all over the place."

Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair, the committee's chairman, argued that it isn't right to connect building conditions with strikes. He said strengthening strike laws would ensure that children get a proper education.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI