Detroit's descent: Teachers still strike, water shut off

DETROIT - Nearly all of Detroit's public schools were closed for a second consecutive day Tuesday as hundreds of teachers called out sick over concerns that many may not get paid if the financially struggling district runs out of money.

As of 7:15 a.m., 94 of the district's 97 schools were shut down - the same number that was forced to cancel classes Monday when more than 1,500 teachers did not show up for work.

It was not immediately known how many of Detroit Public School's approximately 46,000 students were affected by the continuing sick-out, but the district said more than 45,000 missed class Monday.

The sick-out is one of many symptoms of a larger financial crisis in the city that will be discussed by state lawmakers today again in the capital, reports CBS Detroit.

In addition to the education budget crisis, the Motor City is facing another major problem amid its downward financial spiral, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

An estimated 20,000 households owe money on their water bills and have chosen not to take advantage of city payment plans.

Starting Tuesday, the city of nearly 700,000 will begin to turn off the water supply to those homes.

Gary Brown, the director of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, said he wished it didn't come to that.

"We do not want to shut anyone off," Brown said. "It costs me money to do that. We want to get them on a payment plan and give them the assistance needed."

Teachers were expected to continue picketing outside district administrative offices where several hundred protested on Monday. A union membership meeting was scheduled Tuesday afternoon at a Detroit church.

"Let us be clear. We are still locked out," Detroit Federation of Teachers president Ivy Bailey said in an email late Monday to the union's rank-and-file. "We do not work for free and therefore we do not expect you to report to school tomorrow."

Detroit's school district, which has dilapidated buildings crawling with mold and infested with rodents, has been in debt for several years now. It has stayed afloat by asking for short-term loans from the state, which it now owes $3.5 billion.

The district has been under continuous state oversight since 2009 and led by a series of emergency managers who have tried to cut down its debt and millions of dollars in annual deficits. Current transition manager and former federal judge Steven Rhodes, who oversaw the city's recent bankruptcy, warned over the weekend that $47.8 million in emergency money that the state approved in March will run out by June 30.

Teachers opting to have their pay spread over a full 12 months instead of the course of the school year would not receive paychecks in July and August without more help from the state.

The state Legislature is considering a $720 million restructuring plan that would pay off the district's enormous debt.

But the growing sick-outs that started late last year with just a small group of teachers appear to be threatening the plan.

Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, said Monday that the sick-outs, conducted by "egotistical teachers," have cost Detroit schoolchildren more than one million hours of instruction.

"Their selfish and misguided plea for attention only makes it harder for us to enact a rescue plan and makes it harder for Detroit's youngest residents to get ahead and build a future for themselves," Cotter said in a statement.

But one parent who was missing work because her daughter has been shut out of class both days said the blame for the district's financial maladies falls on the shoulders of the state, not the teachers.

"I think (the teachers) have been doing the best that they can with the resources that they have," said Monique Baker McCormick, whose daughter is an 11th grader at Cass Tech. "They're just trying to survive themselves off of what little they get. So I don't blame them at all for fighting for what they deserve."

Still, things are starting to look bleak for the district that had 150,415 students in 2003-2004.

"I think this is the end and this is where the whole dismantling of the Detroit public school system begins," Baker McCormick said. "The state took over, and now look at where we are."