DETROIT (WJBK) - All but three of Detroit's public schools were closed Monday amid a sick-out by teachers protesting funding issues at the financially struggling district. District spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in an email early Monday that 94 of the district's 97 schools have been closed for the day. About 46,000 students are enrolled in the district's schools.
Members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers rallied outside the Detroit Public School headquarters on Grand Boulevard early Monday morning to send a powerful message to the district and lawmakers who will ultimately decide their fate.
"Today, teachers have been sick and tired of being sick and tired. We are here in unity - 3,700 members strong - protesting the fact that we will not be paid after June 30," explains Terrence Martin, the executive vice president of the DFT.
The teachers union voted for a district-wide sick-out on Sunday, one day after the emergency manager for DPS schools, Judge Steven Rhodes, announced the money to pay teachers would run out in June. The union was under the impression that a $50 million bill recently signed by the governor would cover the summer pay for the teachers who picked a plan to get compensated throughout the year, verses just the school year.
"We want to get paid a wage for a day's work. Basically, as of last Thursday, those of us who extended our pay are now working for free; we're going to lose our last five paychecks," says David Boys, a teacher at Munger Elementary.
The state senate already approved a $715 million education reform package that would further help the cash strapped district. It's currently being debated in the house.
The union, of course, hopes it will pass. They are also now pushing for an audit of DPS spending to find out where all this money is going.
"DPS teachers, we're the hardest working teachers and a lot of the things happening right now is unacceptable," says teacher Dajuanna Travier.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says the sick-out is "not constructive" and hampers efforts to persuade lawmakers to approve a $720 million rescue package for the ailing district. The governor told reporters in Flint on Monday that he hopes the House approves the Senate-passed legislation this month, but the sick-out "probably raises more questions and challenges to legislators."
Teacher strikes are illegal under Michigan law. Sick-outs earlier this year caused tens of thousands of students to miss class.
Judge Rhodes said in a statement that he understands the frustration and anger, and that he is confident the legislature will support his request that will guarantee teachers will receive the pay that was owed to them. He also said that the drastic call to action was not necessary.
We're told the union is having an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss what to do next.
This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 2 for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.