Most of America has managed to get on with life amid the craziest presidential election in 50 years. Sadly, this is not the case in Detroit.

There is a disagreement there between the local teachers union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, and the emergency manager of the local school district. It centers on educational funds appropriated through June. The manager says funds are sufficient to pay for the district's operations only through the end of that month. The union says they were promised the funds would pay for summer school, too.

To fight the possibility that summer school will be cancelled to save money, the union is striking illegally, as it has on and off throughout the school year. This time it's called a "sick-out," essentially a coordinated mass sick day by teachers, and it has managed to close 94 of the city's 97 public schools on Monday.

It is wrong in all cases, and illegal in this one, to hold schoolchildren hostage in political fights. It's especially so in Detroit, where the school district and a teachers' union have for decades miserably failed the children in their charge. If anyone has the right to protest and take action, it is the parents of children whose education has been betrayed.

Sometimes teachers are genuinely cheated by local government. But the proper recourse in such cases is to go to court or fight within the political process.

Teachers' strikes are illegal in the Great Lakes State. Detroit's teachers' union, which has fomented a series of "sick-outs," long ago lost all credibility and sympathy.

We take no view on whether the disputed money should or should not be used to pay for summer school. But that is not the point. The point is that the union is striking illegally and denying children their right to an eduction — which is a much more important right than teachers' claimed right to summer work.

Adults should decide political questions at the ballot box, and legal contractual disputes in court. When they behave in the way Detroit's teachers are behaving now, they provide just one more reason why every state should be seeking out and offering new non-union educational alternatives.

Sadly, attempts to hold the union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, accountable in court for illegal striking have failed. A lawsuit against the union was thrown out in February. The sensible conclusion is that legislators, after they find a way to keep the Detroit school district afloat, should change the law so that future attempts to hold the union accountable for its illegal actions will succeed.

Then, if teachers resort to the sort of action they are now taking, they should be sacked. We won't hold our breath waiting for that, though. For Detroit, which was once one of America's biggest and most dynamic cities, has been governed so badly for so long that it has become a national punchiline. One can hope for better, but it would be a triumph of hope over experience to expect it.