PHOENIX — Families across Arizona were forced to scramble for day-care and babysitting options this week as a union-led teacher walk-out suddenly became reality.
Parents in Glendale received an unexpected automated robo-call from Pendergast Elementary School District late Tuesday evening informing them that their children’s school might be closed because of a union-led walk-out. It was discovered that teachers were planning to “call in sick” as a way to protest education funding issues.
Not the next month or the next week — the very next day.
“If some teachers choose to participate in this event,” the voicemail warned, “our school will be understaffed and we will be unable to properly supervise all students safely.”
Thousands of families’ schedules were no longer doable, and parents were forced to scramble for last-minute daycare and babysitting options for their kids or work alternatives for themselves.
The Arizona Education Association union — already under fire for unnecessarily politicizing grassroots education events — has been egging on a teachers strike for weeks. But the protest fell flat for those families whose lives it negatively affected.
“It bothers me a lot,” one grandmother told KTVK on Wednesday. “You know, there’s a lot of kids that would have to go — either their parents would have to call in sick or they would have to go to a day-care, which would cost the parents money.”
One student’s mother told the TV station that she’s worried the strike could end up lasting even longer.
“What about tomorrow?” she asked. “What about next week? What about if this happens again and for how long? That’s what’s concerning.”
Another parent wondered aloud to KSAZ how the strike would affect her child, who, as a result, is getting one less day of schooling.
“I think that the teachers do need help, but I do feel like it takes away from the kids, you know?” she said. “From a mother that has a child who struggles, you know, I feel like now my son gets a little bit of the repercussion.”
Former Governor Jan Brewer weighed-in on the walk-out, too, largely taking the same position as the parents.
Asked her thoughts on the issue during a radio appearance, Brewer responded that she didn’t believe public employees should strike. She also criticized the last-minute nature of the demonstration.
“[W]hat they did last night by notifying all the parents by robo-calls that they’re going to close down their schools — when people go to work and they don’t have places where their kids can go — it sets a very poor example for their students,” Brewer said.
Beth Lewis — chair of the anti-school choice group Save Our Schools Arizona — cheered-on the walk-out but admitted on the radio that she did not participate because she was “in Tempe,” located about 15 minutes from the Arizona State Capitol.
The strike came only two weeks after Democratic House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios warned that a teacher strike would be “a frightening prospect” and said that, “no,” she did not support one.
Senate Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, also a Democrat, responded during the same interview that it was “hard to tell” if a strike might even be counterproductive.