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Teacher Sickout Closes at Least Seven Detroit Schools

Classes at seven Detroit schools were canceled Thursday after teachers staged an unannounced sickout, reports television station WDIV.

Thursday's action marks the second sickout in the district in the past two weeks as teachers continue to express their disapproval of Gov. Rick Snyder's school reform plans.

The governor's $715 million proposal would pay off the Detroit district's debt, which would be left with the existing school system, and create a new district to educate  the city's students. The Detroit schools have already been under state control since 2009 and teachers have faced pay cuts, higher health care costs, and larger class sizes in the years since.

In response to the sickout, Emergency Manager Darnell Earley said the district has a right to review suspected sick leave abuses.

"The review will include requiring medical documentation to substantiate the illness in order to determine whether the reported time was legitimately charged as personal illness," Earley said in a statement. "Failure to provide documentation may result in the absence being without pay, and further disciplinary action being taken in accordance with district policy."

A similar sickout prompted three Detroit schools to close Dec. 1. The sickouts are just the latest action in a district where teachers are increasingly distressed.

As my colleague Stephen Sawchuk reported on Education Week's Teacher Beat blog, the American Federation of Teachers will assume control of the operations of its Detroit local, the Detroit Federation of Teachers. Internal strife led the union's executive board to oust its president this fall

"Local internal political fights have diverted attention and focus from the external quadruple whammy of austerity, benefit cuts, widespread charterization, and layoffs," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.

Not all Detroit teachers are happy with the move. The Detroit News quoted one teacher bemoaning AFT's interventionThe newspaper also reports that a group of teachers will gather today to announce a set of demands including "no proposed chartering of 31 Detroit schools" and "restoration of all pay steps and the 10 percent pay cut."

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