Bills meant to crack down on teacher “sickout” protests are moving forward in the Michigan Senate.
The bills would define the sickouts as illegal teacher strikes in state law. The protests have closed dozens of Detroit schools in recent weeks.
A legislative panel approved the legislation on Tuesday while adding more teeth to the bills. New language would temporarily block unions from representing teachers and collecting dues in districts where sickouts are happening.
“We’ve identified clearly that there’s gaps in the strike law in Michigan. They’re running through those gaps,” said Senate Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair.
“And so, we want to make sure we close those gaps for the good of the kids.”
Critics of the legislation say it would take away teachers’ only way to protest problems in their classrooms.
“They got the attention on the rats, the mold, and all the deplorable conditions that were in DPS. And that would not probably have happened if it weren’t for those (protests),” said state Sen. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit.
Hood says the bills could cause problems as lawmakers try to negotiate a rescue package for Detroit Public Schools.
“We’re on the heels of trying to put together – on both sides of the aisle – a fix for DPS. And this doesn’t help matters any at all,” he said.
State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, says the bills probably won’t get a vote before the Senate has a chance to take up the DPS rescue package.