News Story

One In Four Michigan School District Teachers Chronically Absent

That’s twice the rate of charter school teachers

A new report released by the Thomas Fordham Institute found that school teachers in Michigan’s conventional school districts are almost twice as likely to miss 11 or more days of school than teachers in public charter schools.

In Michigan, 24.7 percent of school district teachers miss 11 days or more – which the federal Office for Civil Rights defines as “chronically absent” – while 12.4 percent of charter school teachers miss that many. Nationwide, the report says, 28.3 percent of public school teachers and 10.3 percent of charter school teachers are chronically absent.

The report suggests that a significant factor in the difference between the groups is whether the teacher has a union collective bargaining agreement.

The report backs up this assertion by citing the fact that Georgia and Texas, where union collective bargaining is illegal, have smaller-than-average gaps between rates of chronic absenteeism.

The report also found that nationwide, 18 percent of teachers in unionized public charter schools are chronically absent, while 9 percent of teachers in non-unionized public charter schools are chronically absent. Most charter schools are not unionized.

Doug Pratt, spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said that charter school teachers must show up to work sick to keep their jobs, according to the Detroit Free Press. He offered no proof to support his claim.

“He said that in charters, ‘very few have organized themselves to bargain those days off,’ and have to show up for work sick to keep their jobs,” Pratt was quoted as saying in the Sept. 20 Detroit Free Press. “It comes down to a question of do you want sick teachers in front of kids.”

In the Free Press article, Pratt also said, “Teachers often end up taking days off because of extended illnesses or because they're caring for a sick relative.”

Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, which advocates for charter schools, condemned Pratt’s statement.

“Doug Pratt and the MEA should be ashamed of themselves for that unfounded, irresponsible allegation,” Quisenberry said. “Charter school teachers don’t need to be told when to show up to work and when to stay home. They’re professionals, and they’re going to do what’s right for themselves and for their students.”

Pratt did not return an email and a phone call requesting comment.



Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.