Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Detroit: Fire ‘Em All & Let God Sort It Out Later

Over 4,100 Detroit Public Schools teachers received layoff notices this month, according to the Detroit affiliate of NPR. They will each have to reapply next month in order to have a chance at a job in the district next year. Furthermore, new state law now prohibits Michigan school districts from rehiring or laying off teachers based solely on seniority. In Detroit, the decision will be based on evaluations.

Such mass firings are not uncommon in school districts and have become even more prevalent with the budget crises of the past few years. Ed Codes generally require districts to send out pink slips toward the end of spring semester, even though revenues are uncertain until the following fall. Thus, school districts typically send out far more layoff notices than necessary and have to scramble to rehire some of the laid off teachers in the fall.

Detroit Public Schools (DPS) has the added problem of declining enrollment due to a shrinking city population and growing number of charter schools. Despite these factors, DPS still saw an enrollment spike last September, forcing the district to hire back all but 400 teachers and will likely face a similar scenario this coming fall.

Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) President Keith Johnson said "they are doing this again like they did last year and it's going to be chaos again in September... I'm preparing for battle." Of course, coming from Johnson, who has repeatedly maintained a collaborationist relationship with DPS (see here, here and here), Detroit teachers should be very nervous. Johnson’s approach to battle will likely involve some gentle pleading and followed by concessions that will trade pink slips for increased class sizes, longer working hours, and wage and benefits cuts.

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