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Michigan Lawmakers Target Detroit Teachers' Sickouts

Michigan's Republican lawmakers want to make it easier for sickouts staged by Detroit teachers to be classified as illegal strikes.

Michigan law bars teachers from striking.

Detroit teachers have ramped up sickouts this month, causing more than 85 of the district's 97 schools to close on Wednesday. Teachers said they have been protesting poor school conditions, cuts to their benefits, and large class sizes.  

The large number of school closures due to teachers' absences prompted the district to go to court Wednesday to seek a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop teachers from continuing the sickouts and encouraging others to participate.

The district said that students have lost a cumulative seven instructional days as a result of the sickouts. In court papers filed in the Michigan Court of Claims, the district characterized the sickouts as strikes.

The court denied the district's motion for the temporary injunction on Thursday, but set a hearing date for Monday.

On the same day, members of the Republican-controlled legislature made the proposal to crack down on the sickouts.  The proposal would cut the time it takes to bring complaints about such actions to the state Employment Relations Commission from 60 days to two days, according to the Associated Press.

The changes would permit hearings for more than one teacher at a time, the AP said. The state superintendent of education would also have the ability to revoke teaching certificates and impose hefty fines on teachers found to have engaged in strikes, the AP said. 

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