Flint Community Schools were forced to close last week when 119 teachers called in sick. United Teachers of Flint President Karen Christian proclaimed at a press conference, “…we must act. We must act for the sake of our students. We must act for the sake of our schools. We must act for the sake of our community. The time is now.”

By “act,” the Flint union leader means that the union will strike. The sick-out day was a foretaste of a longer union-induced school closure if the leaders’ demands are not met. The union has already set a strike date

Public sector strikes have been illegal in Michigan since 1947. According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “In Michigan, it is illegal for public employees to willfully skip out on working, even in response to actions by the employer. That includes teachers.” 

The school district has informed teachers that it cannot afford to provide raises due to a $14 million budget deficit. The deficit numbers are perplexing given the $156 million—an additional $51,193 per pupil—in supplemental federal education funding (ESSER) the district has received over the past four years. 

The Flint school district’s academic outcomes are heartbreaking: 6% of third graders are proficient in math and 9% are reading at grade level. The mean SAT score for Flint students is 750. Clearly, both the union and the district staff are failing to ensure the community’s students are educated. We strongly believe that both sides of the Flint, Michigan labor dispute should get their acts together and prioritize the students rather than the unionized adults in the system.

To learn more about how the teachers unions protect adults rather than students, read “Does the Portland Teachers Union Care About Learning Loss?” and watch this short congressional testimony clip.

For more information about teachers unions, check out the IWF Education Freedom Center’s Teachers Union Resource Center