Who Will Teach?

School is scheduled to start on September 5th in Detroit, Michigan. The teachers might or might not be there to actually teach the children. You see, last night the Detroit teachers union overwhelmingly voted to go on strike-or not teach due to what they consider a breakdown in contract negotiations. That’s right-in a city where the average teacher salary is $53,000-$58,000 per year, the teachers decided not to work due to lack of pay and a requested adjustment in benefits. This is the same region where thousands of jobs in the automotive industry have been lost over the past two-three years.

This is the same city that cannot balance their education budget, where half of the students do not graduate from high school, and of those who do graduate ½ to ¾’s of the students need remedial education to do well in college and/or a job. Over the past few years, many students from the city have utilized Michigan’s schools of choice option to go to public schools in the outlying suburbs. Some have called it a mass exodus of students and actually residents. Everything is so political-including getting an education.

Politics is nothing new to the Detroit teachers union. I remember several years ago when the union and the majority of the teachers it represents were up in arms about a generous donor who wanted to give millions of dollars to open up charter schools in the city to help give the children the education they need to succeed. I suppose the teachers and union reps were fearful of loosing their jobs because they decided to go to the state capitol of Lansing and let their voices be heard en masse to let the Governor and otehr politicians know they did not agree with the new charter schools. So many teachers took the hour or so trip to Lansing that school had to be shut down for the day. No the teachers could not wait for the weekend to let their voices be heard-they would have still gotten great media attention in this pro-union area. So the students and their parents were abandoned by the teachers and did not learn what they needed to that day either. The governor changed her position and to date only one of the charter schools have opened. The generous donor later said that he could give his money to another city that really wanted it. I am sure he has had many requests to come and help children to learn in other parts of the country.

I hope this will all be resolved within the next few days so the children will be able to continue their education. In the late 1990’s a teachers strike in Detroit for similar reasons delayed schools opening for several weeks. The children got the raw deal that time. Perhaps some of those displaced auto workers would like a new job. Crossing a picket line in Detroit is still pretty taboo, but part of me hopes that a new generation of committed teachers who value the children, as well as the idea of making sure they are well educated, and a decent paying job with benefits will begin to teach the children on September 5th and every day thereafter.