DETROIT (WJBK) - Nearly every Detroit Public School was empty on Monday after teachers skipped school to rally for their paychecks.
The district told teachers they don't have enough cash to keep the paychecks coming this summer. Those paychecks due in the summer would be for work already earned during the school year. Now, hundreds of teachers protested outside Detroit Public Schools headquarters in downtown Detroit.
With the rally of 'No pay, No work', teachers protested DPS inside the Fisher Building on West Grand Blvd.
By staging the sickout on Monday, most of the school district's 94 schools were closed - the outliers were a couple of special needs schools. Over 1,500 teachers called in sick - that's almost half of the district's entire workforce.
The issue is the news that came out this week that the district would be out of money after June 30th. That means staff wouldn't be paid and summer classes could be cancelled.
Teachers like Robert Muha say they're holding the protest FOR the kids.
"We consider these kids our kids. We love them and this is where we want to be," Muha said.
Foreign language and cultural immersion studies teacher Marnina Falk said it's not that teachers taking away learning from the students - it's the state who is robbing.
"Our state is robbing them and that's not okay and we're taking a stand that it ends today," Falk said.
"Really we hate to miss a day of school we hate every time we have to do this but the reality is we're fighting for the future - it's not day by day anymore we're looking years ahead," DPS teacher Nina Chacker said.
Teachers are now calling for an audit about where all the money has gone - especially in the wake of the district losing $30 million for teachers' pensions. The district has been under state emergency management for years and now it's looking to the state to pass a $700 million restructuring plan to pay off the debt.
DPS Transition Manager Steven Rhodes said the state will take the action necessary.
"This legislature will do the right thing because it recognizes its moral and its constitutional obligation to provide for a free public education for the children of the city of Detroit," Rhodes said. "We need to do our jobs and they need to do their jobs and it all needs to be done by mid June."
Outside of DPS headquarter, the protest continued. Though vocal, they were peaceful - even when an officer with Detroit Public Schools kicked the chalk out of a protesters hand as she kneeled to write in sidewalk chalk.
Police say it's illegal to deface property - even with chalk.
Protestors say they will hold their signs high for as long as it takes to make sure they get paid and school continues after June 30th.
Rhodes said he is open and transparent and welcomes an audit but they don't have the funds to pay for it. However, if the teachers pay for it, they are welcome to do so.