With school just weeks away, uncertainty lingers over Detroit teachers

Aug 13, 2012

With Detroit Public Schools students set to head back to class in less than a month, serious questions linger regarding the district’s teachers.

The district’s emergency manager, Roy Roberts, imposed new contract terms on teachers last month.

That infuriated teachers and their union leaders, who said the district never even collectively bargained with them.

But those new terms are now null and void, argues Keith Johnson, President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. He says now that the law has been suspended, Roberts’ “authority” is suspended, too.

“Therefore, Roy Roberts is not authorized to impose any type of collective bargaining agreement or edict upon us,” Johnson said.

Keith Johnson said he delivered to Roberts demanding the two sides go back to the bargaining table last week.

He said if they don’t hear back from Roberts by early this week, “We will begin to pursue, or at least contemplate, our legal options.”

Steve Wasko, a district spokesman, says Roberts has stated in writing “his continued desire to discuss issues and address questions and concerns” regarding collective bargaining.

Wasko did not respond to a specific follow-up question about whether Roberts is considering is open to going back to the bargaining table. However, the district maintains that all actions Roberts took as emergency manager “remain in effect.” 

Johnson said in the meantime, there’s serious concern about whether this chaotic situation will affect the start of the school year. As in the past several years, all Detroit school teachers got layoff notices earlier this year.

Teachers are scheduled to report to schools August 27th; students report September 4th.

The district says 2100 of the more than 4000 DPS teachers laid off in April have now received call-back letters from the district. Wasko says teacher assignment were sent out August 13th.