Opinion: This walkout most likely will backfire on our teachers
For most parents in Arizona, Monday began with an uncomfortable level of uncertainty. As we coaxed our kids out of bed, we were quietly wondering if this was going to be a very short week of school.
We didn’t let on in hopes that our kids would just slug through their morning rituals in their normal carefree-yet-zombie-like state.
We began running through our mental Rolodex thinking of who could possibly watch the kids on Thursday and Friday, in case the teachers actually went on strike. In case the teachers actually walked out on the kids.
We got the kids off to school without incident. There were no protesters in red disrupting our kids’ normal morning school-day thought patterns and routines.
And then they all started to arrive like one domino falling after another. District notice after district notice began flooding inboxes informing parents that schools would be closed (like really closed) for, at minimum, Thursday and Friday.
I’m confident that most parents read these notices with a sense of confusion, disbelief, anger and panic.
This walkout most likely will backfire on our teachers.
Let me pause here and state for the record that I am 100 percent in favor of higher teacher pay and classroom spending that allows teachers to have all of the resources they need without having to pay for supplies out of their own pocket.
Now, back to the walkout and why it will most likely backfire on teachers. It’s simple: They are refusing to recognize the optics. Or even worse — completely ignoring them.
Teachers are placing the burden of this mess on their biggest support group: parents.
Arizona parents and taxpayers have supported teachers and students at every turn.
We have voted yes every time we were sold that it was “for the kids.” We approved the Arizona State Lottery because we were told it would fund schools. We passed tax increases because we were told it they would fund education. We passed more bond measures and overrides than we can count. We passed Prop 301 and Prop 123 because, once again, it was “for the kids.”
We have brought thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies to the classrooms over our kids’ K-12 careers.
We have participated in and contributed to each and every fundraiser that schools have thrown at us.
We have been all-in.
And how is this dedication and loyalty repaid? By rejecting an offer for a raise, walking out on our students, leaving us to take time off or pay for day care, and asking us yet again to pay more in taxes.
Let me pause again. Before you skip down to the comment section and fire off on me, remember, I’m talking about optics — how the majority of Arizonans see the teachers’ decision to strike.
Once again, ignoring the optics.
These parents that have supported teachers for decades live in the real world. They live in the private sector. These parents have jobs that they feel are important and meaningful as well.
These parents haven’t seen a pay increase since 2008 either. If these parents walked off of the job to demand more pay — they would be fired. Many of these parents make less than the teachers that they support time and time again.
There are also some parents who are concerned about their kids eating. They rely on the reduced or free breakfast and lunch programs.
Now, take a second and put yourself in their shoes. If they are relying on schools to feed their kids, how are they expected to pay for daycare? How are they expected to take time off of work?
How about those who are more fortunate, like myself? My wife and kids are prepaid and booked to jump a flight to grandma and grandpa’s on the last day of school. Do you think the airline and rental car companies are going to waive the cancellation or rescheduling fees because of a teachers strike? Nope.
The teachers are claiming that every school employee needs a raise. The nonteachers need more dough as well. I’m on the fence here with this one, as one reason given by the teachers has been that if they get raises and the others don’t, it will be awkward. Ha!
And here’s one of the problems that the teachers are ignoring but all of us can see as plain as day. Nonteachers won’t be paid during the teachers strike. If you are working and living with a low-wage job, two days or more without pay can put you so fiscally far behind it would be almost impossible to catch up. Yes, even if they make a few more bucks a week after the crunch.
And let’s not forget about our high school seniors.
These kids, young adults in some cases, have gone the distance! They are excited about prom, graduation and celebration. Wait, just a minute you crazy kids, the teachers have put that on hold for the time being.
Grandma and grandpa have flown into town, cakes have been ordered and invitations have been sent. Once again, hang tight, the teachers haven’t decided when graduation will happen yet.
Now here’s what should happen.
Teachers need to stay in class until the end of the school year. They need to continue the walk-ins. They need to continue to wear red, hold rallies and protest.
This is going to be a distance event. Teachers need to stay organized throughout the summer. They need to take the protests to the state Capitol, to the House and Senate. Keep the heat and public pressure on the lawmakers who have put teachers in this pinch time and time again. The ones who haven’t had your backs like us parents have.
And then, hold out. Strike on the first week of school. The first week of school, which happens to fall smack dab in the heart of a huge election cycle. You see where I’m going with this.
That will be the time to capitalize on months of momentum and then have the most leverage against those that actually put teachers in this problem and have the power to solve the problem.
Please understand that if teachers walk out on us parents and kids this week, it better work. If not, and teachers have to pull this stunt again, you will lose your biggest support group: parents.