Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
Detroit Public Schools (DPS) classes were back in session today after a series of teacher sickouts. Many DPS teachers are protesting deplorable working conditions such as mold and fungi growing in classrooms, dead rodents and insects, no heat, collapsing ceilings, and enormous class sizes.
Last week, State Senator Phil Pavlov (R-Saint Clair) threatened to introduce legislation to crack down on DPS teachers and put an end to the teacher sickouts. Today he delivered the goods.
Pavlov—along with his colleagues State Senators Joe Hune (R-Hamburg), David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc), and Goeff Hansen (R-Hart)—introduced bills this morning to increase penalties for striking teachers. Senate Bill 713 would require the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) to hold expedited hearings on public school employee strikes; it would also grant MERC broad powers to enter orders, enjoin strikes, and fine striking employees. Senate Bill 714 would direct the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to hold hearings pertaining to striking teachers and would require the State Superintendent to suspend or revoke the teaching certificate of any public school employee who is found to have participated in an illegal strike. Lastly, Senate Bill 715 would punish any school district that does not deduct MERC-imposed fines from a teacher’s paycheck.
Meanwhile, as you are probably aware, the DPS Emergency Manager has sued the Detroit Federation of Teachers and various individuals in the Michigan Court of Claims, seeking injunctive relief to halt the sickouts and order the teachers back to work. Today, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens entered an order denying the Emergency Manager’s motion for an emergency, ex parte temporary restraining order. Judge Stephens scheduled a full hearing on the issue for Monday, January 25, 2016, at which time she will consider whether DPS has been irreparably damaged by the sickouts and whether extraordinary relief is warranted in the matter. Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Judge Stephens to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2008. Under a controversial state law enacted in 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court selects four Court of Appeals judges to serve on the Court of Claims, each for a two-year term. MCL 600.6404. Judge Stephens is known as a smart, fair jurist.