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Union says stop teaching students in Detroit

Detroit is a dying city, instinctively gasping for breath as it struggles to survive. But things are tough all over in the US today. Unemployment is hovering just under 10%, millions have been without a job for two years or more, and our national debt is fast approaching the calamitous mark of $14 TRILLION.

But, while most leaders in the US are looking to better educate the next generation as a means of lifting the economy out of its current funk, the Detroit teachers’ union is bucking the trend. The union is calling on some of its members to STOP teaching their students and act as mere babysitters. In a letter to substitutes published on its website, the Detroit Federation of Teachers calls on substitute teachers to “cease and desist with the following responsibilities”:

  • Developing lesson plans. Let the administrator provide lesson plans daily or weekly for students in your care, or develop a “survival kit,” activities designed to give students something to do for the periods you have them.
  • Do not grade assignments given to students. Let the administration check the assignments you issue.
  • Do not enter grades into the grade book. Turn in the grade book you have maintained to the administrator. The administrator can enter any grades achieved and average them for card marking.
  • Do not complete the computerized grade sheets. The administrator can enter in grades.
  • Do not participate in parent-teacher conferences. Let the administrator confer with parents on a student’s progress in class.

Effectively, the union is demanding substitute teachers STOP educating the youth of Detroit and instead act as mere babysitters. In the letter, DFT President Keith R. Johnson says “I truly regret the necessity to take this action because it is not in the best interest of our students. However, I can no longer allow our members to be treated in such a manner…” An absolute admission that students are NOT the center of concern for the teachers’ union in Detroit. And though Johnson “regrets” taking action that is not in students’ best interest, a sacrifice must be made for the union to get its way and that sacrifice will be the children…the innocent, malleable youth of Detroit…the future of the dying city.

Johnson accuses the district of hiring long-term substitutes to “save money,” and says this action is necessary force the district to pay them more. But every district has need of long-term substitutes. When teachers are seriously ill, on leave after having a baby, or even if the district cannot find enough certified teachers to fill its classrooms, long-term subs are called on.

In a dying city, you might expect a teacher shortage. And you will find one in Detroit. In late September, the district was still short certified teachers. Pointing out that “59 of our 140 schools have reached or exceeded enrollment projections,” district Financial Manager Robert Bobb announced a hiring surge to fill the vacancies.

Now the district has filed suit against the union, claiming the letter violates “the existing collective bargaining agreement agreed to by its members.” In response to the suit, Johnson again made remarks that evidence his priorities are not the best interest of Detroit students. From an article on

The problem stems from a teacher shortage in the district and substitutes taking on the role of general classroom teachers, but not being compensated as such, Johnson said.

So Johnson believes the solution lies in NOT educating Detroit students! This illustrates the problem with teachers’ unions. In every part of the educational system, from the classroom to the office of the Secretary of Education, the number one priority should be the students. Obviously, in the leadership of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, this is not the case.

If you’d like to let Johnson know how you feel about this situation contact him via the phone and email below.

Keith R. Johnson, President, Detroit Federation of Teachers
Phone: (313) 875-3500, Ext. 778

Tags: Education, Detroit, Detroit Federation of Teachers, Detroit Public Schools, Teachers’ Unions, Unions, Keith R. Johnson, Economy

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December 4, 2010 Posted by | Education | 1 Comment