Hundreds of teachers stayed away from school yesterday in Detroit in the USA, in protest over the appalling conditions in the town's public schools. The teachers engaged in a so-called 'sick-out', organised by a group within the Detroit Teachers Federation. Over 60 schools were closed as a result of the action, which affected thousands of children.

A rally in central Detroit was supported by many parents and students. Classes in the city can be as high as 40, the buildings are in shocking condition, with stories of mold and rats common as well as a lack of basics like heating and air conditioning. Teachers have taken pay cuts in the face of the increasing indebtdedness of Detroit schools.

As one protesting teacher : “We are on the front line, working side by side with the (students) every day, trying our best to overcome numerous obstacles.In the winter, we often work in freezing rooms with our coats on with them. In the summertime, we survive with them in stifling heat and humidity in temperatures that no one should have to work in. We wipe their tears and listen when they are upset.” The teachers say that the children are being set up to fail in a city where almost four in ten children live below the poverty level.

The struggle is also about the lack of democratic control over schools, which are administered by the state and not by the city and where the school board is appointed by the state. According to , 'what I think we see happening in the district in Detroit is really an indictment of the sort of heavy-handed power from the executive branch without any checks or balances.'

While children and teachers continue to shiver in oversized and unheated classes, financiers are making a killing - 41 cents in every dollar spent on children's education goes to debt servicing.