What's the crisis in Detroit about?

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Earlier this spring, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill to provide $48.7 million for Detroit Public Schools, money that was supposed to pay teacher salaries through the summer. Now, teachers and other DPS staff have no guarantee they'll be paid for the time they work. Their paychecks—unlike their mortgages, student loans, car payments and grocery bills—could end after June 30.

Detroit educators with signsIt's a huge problem. Roughly two-thirds of Detroit teachers and many other school employees spread their salaries out over the year. They defer compensation so they'll be able to manage household expenses during the summer. Now, DPS is warning that these employees—who work hard and play by the rules—could be losing wages they've already earned. And many will struggle over the summer and beyond to keep their family finances afloat.

Sign a petition supporting Detroit's teachers and demanding that they be paid.
How bad is the potential damage? Teachers who spread their wages over 22 periods won't receive their last paycheck—wages for the last nine working days of the school year. For a starting teacher making $35,683, that's a $1,622 salary hit. Teachers paid on a 12-month schedule will lose five paychecks. That's a $6,862 cut for a starting teacher—almost a fifth of his or her salary, or 37 days of unpaid work!
"There's a basic agreement in America: When you put in a day's work, you'll receive a day's pay. DPS is breaking that deal," says Ivy Bailey, the interim president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. "Unfortunately, by refusing to guarantee that we will be paid for our work, DPS is effectively locking our members out of the classrooms."
Detroit kids and families also could lose out, since DPS is looking to shave costs by shutting down summer school in 2016. And summer school provides the crucial catch-up time and enrichment children need to start strong in the fall, says Donna Jackson, president of the Detroit Federation of Paraprofessionals.

Almost all the school system's clerical staff, members of the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees, hold year-round positions that may be at risk this summer as well. Their work, including the processing of high school transcripts, health records and athletic papers, will be sorely missed at both the end of this school year and the start of the next.
Make no mistake: Promises are being broken in Detroit. The community was promised that the financial package enacted by the state would put a stop to ruthless school cuts. Detroit families and kids were promised a school system that runs efficiently year round and programs that help students avoid the "summer slide." And, for DPS employees, the promise in jeopardy is just as fundamental: Put in a day's work, receive a day's pay.

[AFT staff reports]