Michigan Schools Forced to Close by Teachers Absent to Protest Right-to-Work

Tuesday, 11 Dec 2012 07:46 PM

By Michael Mullins

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School districts across Michigan were closed on Tuesday after large numbers of teachers called in sick or took vacation days to participate in a union-organized protest against right-to-work legislation passed by the Republican-led legislature.

Earlier this week, the American Federation of Teachers distributed a list of protest locations to teachers across Michigan, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The school closings resulted in an estimated 26,000 students missing classes, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and left many parents and guardians scrambling to find alternative daycare for their children.

“We've had an excessive number of teachers call in,” said Warren district spokesperson Robert Freehan. “You can't have students in school with just two staff members there.”

“We're concerned about the safety and security of the students, so we're treating it as a snow day,” he said. “We felt the best approach was to cancel school completely, as well as extracurricular activities.”

According to Freehan, of the approximately 800 teachers employed by the district, “several hundred” educators excused themselves on Tuesday. With more than 15,000 students in the district, Warren is the state’s 9th-largest school district in Michigan.

“I think that political agendas shouldn't take precedence over student learning,” said Warren school board member-elect Ben Lazarus, though his criticism for teachers didn’t extend to the district’s superintendent. “I think the superintendent made the best decision with the facts available,” he said.

In an interview with the Free Press, when asked whether the high teacher absenteeism would close schools in the city, Detroit Federation President Keith Johnson remarked, “Hopefully.”

The right-to-work legislation will go before Michigan’s Republican Governor Richard Snyder for his signature on Wednesday.

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