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Students pay a price when teachers aren't in school

Teachers weren’t the only people affected by a two-day sick out earlier this month to protest Detroit Public Schools’ threat to stop paying teacher salaries over the summer.

Students paid a price, too.

“I understand the struggle that teachers are going through,” says Douglass senior James Smith. “They come in every single day and put their work in trying to get us to find who we truly are and help sculpt out our future.”

On May 2 and 3, teachers called in sick after learning that money wouldn’t be available after June for days already worked. Most teachers have the district withhold part of their biweekly paycheck during the school year so they can continue to draw a salary in the summer.

DPS, which is over $500 million in debt, has been in state emergency manager control since 2009. The Michigan legislature has been debating funding proposals, but no solution is yet in place. Teachers argued that money for salaries should have been held in escrow. The sick out ended after the emergency manager, Steven Rhodes, agreed that teachers were owed their salaries.

Some students, of course, enjoy having a 2- or 3-day school week. I know I do. But after a while, you realize that losing school days means missed opportunities to learn. For seniors trying to navigate the graduation process, the missing school days are even more disruptive.

“It's more than just teaching. That's what people fail to realize. Teachers build friendships with students and try to build a trusting bond with them because every single student has a different life story or has their own problems they have to deal with. Teachers have to find a way to teach the student, while also making sure the student is OK. Which, that right there, should explain why teachers feel they should earn more money,” says Smith.

Sophomore Edward Banks said he understands why the teachers protested.

“They’re fighting for something they deserve,” he said. “I am behind them completely because I know that if I wasn't getting much recognition for my hard work, I would also be highly upset.”

Said junior Carlos Walker: “Some teachers feel like they are not appreciated. Which is sad because i know that I appreciate my teachers, even though they can get on my last nerve at times.”


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