It’s no surprise that Michigan’s unions came out in force to protest Michigan’s right-to-work law over the past two weeks. One group of protesters, however, deserves a gold star: the teachers who “called in sick” so that they could join the loud and violent throngs marching through Lansing.
Most reports indicate that the number of striking teachers ran to several hundred. Yet while the exact figure isn’t known, one number is not in dispute: 26,000 Michigan students had classes canceled because of the high absenteeism. In the metro Detroit area, three entire school districts closed on Tuesday due to a lack of teachers. The President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers also estimated that “several hundred” of his fellow Detroit Public Schools teachers joined him outside the capital.
The teachers abandoned their chalkboards for the streets at the urging of the Michigan Education Association (MEA). The absentees must not have finished reading the memo, however, as it only requested them to take off “after work.” Either way, the MEA—the largest labor union in the state—has good reason to fear right-to-work: it’s bad news for an organization that spent $134 million last year but only took in $122 million. If there are any teachers who never liked that they were forced to pay dues just to keep their jobs, these revenues will surely decline.
Perhaps the MEA should be more worried about the fate of the students its members are supposed to teach. In Detroit, only 7 percent of the 8th grade students passed their readings tests, and only 4 percent registered proficient in math. Meanwhile, the state recently received a “D” grade for its K-12 student achievement.
Thanks to their antics in Lansing this week, Michigan’s teachers have lost another bargaining chip with their students. The next time they chastise a student for skipping class, the student need only point out that the teachers did the exact same thing this past Tuesday.