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DPS Teachers Panel Discusses Classroom Conditions, 'Sickouts' And Solutions [AUDIO]

DETROIT (WWJ) -- Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan took a second tour of a number of Detroit schools Friday, capping off a week of teacher "sickouts" that forced the closure of many schools.

Teachers for weeks have been organizing sickouts strikes at schools across the district as a way to protest a number of grievances. Two dozen schools were closed Tuesday and more than 60 schools were closed Monday because of teacher absences, leaving more than 2,000 students without classes.

Detroit educators say they are frustrated with deplorable school building conditions, among other matters. WWJ Newsradio 950 convened a panel of teachers from Cass Tech High School to hear their thoughts on the issues.


Teacher Brian Diskin believes that Gov. Rick Snyder's emergency financial manager law is the reason that many of the issues that plague DPS aren't being fixed.

"Since the state has decided to institute emergency financial manager laws, we've largely been allowed to stew and be frustrated," Diskin said. "I can understand that there are lots of different issues. From my viewpoint it's been the shutting down of an open dialogue of collective problem solving."

DPS has been under state control since 2009.

In January 2015, Snyder named Darnell Earley Detroit Public Schools emergency manager, who was also the emergency manager in the city of Flint as the city transitioned from the Detroit water system to using the Flint River water for residents.

Some teachers say that conditions have been bad since before Earley took over and even before state control, when the district was under control of an elected school board.

[MORE: Teacher Pens Letter To Detroit Schools' Emergency Manager: 'We Have Been Set Up To Fail In Every Way']

"While our school district has always had troubles, I think the troubles have been multiplying in ways that are threatening the existence of the school district," Diskin said.

Snyder's plan to split DPS into two entities calls for an "old" and "new" district — one to pay off $715 million in operating debt and the other to operate schools he says are in academic crisis.

The new Detroit Community School District would handle academic operations, payroll, health care, employee contracts and computers. The current Detroit Public Schools would remain intact for tax-collection purposes and to retire the debt.

The new district's board initially would governed by gubernatorial and mayoral appointees, transitioning to a fully elected board in 2021.

Teacher Erica Jones said that shameful facility conditions are just one of the issues that teachers are facing in the classroom on a daily basis.

"I think that it's kinda terrible that they just want to put smoke and mirrors over this issue, that we are upset just about deplorable conditions," Jones said. "There are a variety and a host of issues that we are upset about."

Detroit mayor Mike Duggan said groups and government leaders have to come up with a plan to fix DPS so students aren't hurt by these protests.

"We've got to get on top of this issue, and it's an issue in Lansing," he said. "I think as everybody knows, the state has been running the school system since Jennifer Granholm appointed an emergency manager about six years ago, and things have only gotten worse."

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