For weeks, Detroit teachers have been using rolling sickouts to help focus attention on the crushing challenges they face in the classroom, from dilapidated, dirty conditions to huge class sizes.
Today the sickout tactic ballooned to new heights: 88 out of the 100 Detroit public schools had to close.
“We are working in deplorable conditions. There is mold in schools, mice, not working drinking fountains, food that makes the students sick. We want a change to those conditions and we want to make Detroit Public Schools a desirable place to work because right now there are 200 vacancies and if something doesn't happen that will only increase," said Marnina Falk.
Falk teaches Spanish at the Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School in Detroit. She was on the picket line outside Cobo Center today with a message for President Obama.
“I would tell him that something needs to be done about our schools. Our education is our future. There is nothing that can be done for this city if we don’t have schools for the students in it.”
School administrators have warned that teachers still need to report to work even while students are home because of the sickout. To that Falk said:
“Our school district is going to run out of money in April if something isn’t done, so I would consider that more unsafe than risking a penalty for taking a day off today.”
Falk acknowledges there have been mixed feeling from parents.
"Our parents see that we have the students' best interest in mind and they are in solidarity with us. I also hear that it is hard to not have a place for your child to go that day, but they understand why we are doing it and they understand that this fight is important.”
Marnina Falk is a member of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. She tells us more about what she and her fellow teachers say they want and need from Lansing.