UPDATE: Senate Ed Committee votes in favor of bills to penalize protesting teachers

Feb 2, 2016 at 6:12 pm
UPDATE Feb. 2, 2016: Sen. Pavlov's three bills passed the Senate Education Committee (4-1). If you guessed it was a GOP majority, you'd be right. The only vote against the bills came from Sen. David Knezek, a democrat from Dearborn Heights. Where do the bills go next? The senate floor.

Hey, Lansing did you know DPS is expected to run out of money in the spring? Seems like you got your priorities in check ;) 

On Thursday State Senator Phil Pavlov (R-Saint Clair) decided to address the Detroit Public Schools' sick-outs. Pavlov did not do what would seem like the obvious approach: Consider the educator's frustrations such as poor working conditions, overcrowded classrooms, an ever-increasing debt under state appointed emergency management and ever-decreasing agency and voice under the same emergency management.

No, rather Sen. Pavlov, and his buddies, decided to put those unruly teachers in their place with a number of punitive bills, reports Fix the Mitten's Nick Krieger. 

Introduced Thursday we've got: Senate Bill 713, which mandates that the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) accelerate hearings on public school employees who choose to strike. And MERC-flexability to fine striking employees under the bill.

Then we have Senate Bill 714: Under this beauty (*audible eyeroll*) the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would be required to suspend or revoke the teaching certification of any educator who takes part in an illegal strike (jesus).

And then we've got Senate Bill 715: Districts that don't deduct the MERC fine from the striking teacher's paycheck will be penalized as well. 

It's really hard to read about such bills — passed or not — and not feel a sense of exasperation. Teachers are literally risking everything to draw attention to the inadequacies that have been plaguing their district for years, and then you've got politicians who are too enraged by the disrespect or the micro to get the big picture. 

As Krieger also points out, it's not just the politicians trying to clamp down on the sickouts and punish the teachers. Earlier this week DPS Emergency Manager Darnell Eearly (yes, yes the same guy who was Emergency Manager in Flint when the water was switched to the toxic Flint River. Welcome to emergency management in Michigan, folks!) asked a judge to issue a restraining order against 23 striking teachers, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, its interim president, Ivy Bailey, as well organized protestors like DPS Teachers Fight Back and By Any Means Necessary. He also asked for a preliminary injunction ordering the 23 teachers back to work. Judge Cynthia Stephens denied Early's temporary restraining order request. She will hold a hearing on Monday to determine the true — if any — damages of the sickouts on the long-term education of DPS's students. 

As we've pointed out before, the notion that the sick-outs are detrimental for students in the long run is sort insane when considering the bigger picture. 35-50 kids stacked in a classroom is long-term harm. 8th grade math books in a 4th grade classroom is long-term harm. Students having to leave their coats on all of class because it is so cold in building is long-term harm. Teacher making only $35,000 a year — despite all the aforementioned issues — is long-term harm. Mold in classrooms is long-term harm. Cut extracurriculars like art and PE is long-term harm. Appointed officials who are more concerned on reducing debt (though oddly, simultaneously increasing it) is long-term harm. Lacking an elected and publicly accountable school board is long-term harm. Politicians trying to hinder public expression and true activism when teacher's are identifying problems is long-term harm. 

Missing a day or two, even five, in a school that has the issues described above? Not long-term harm.