Recently, teachers in Arizona went on strike. This post is going to talk about what happens during a teacher strike, how it works, and what happens to students.
Table of contents
Table of contents
**I am writing this just a few days after our teachers returned to school after a strike. Emotions are all over the place, but I want to make this post just informational, for parents who are looking for info should it happen at their school.**
Sidenote: Family routines are like 400% more important when things are messed-up by stuff like a strike. I clung to ours when I had 3 kids unexpectedly at home (with no plans on what to do). The things in this course saved me.
What happens to students during a teacher strike?
It seems to depend on the area and the school officials.
As I watch other districts, some of them still have classes.
In the case of our teachers’ strike (which is all I can really speak to), the students were not allowed to come to school. I had heard that policemen would be on campus to make sure parents didn’t drop kids off. (?)
Parents had to find other options for their kids.
Many churches opened up daycares. Things like karate classes, gymnastics, and gyms often opened up for the full day. Many places saw a place to make money and dove in to “help” out.
Not to say that these places were necessary, but most of them did come at a cost, which would’ve been a financial burden on the parents.
Why do teachers strike?
In Arizona, teachers struck because education funding in Arizona is very low. They wanted higher pay, but also more funding for all areas of education in Arizona.
They were very clear that it wasn’t just about a higher salary for them (and I do believe it wasn’t), but in fact, it was also about pay raises as well (as any strike is).
Do teachers get paid for each strike day?
That actually seemed to be up to each individual district. Our district chose (through a school board vote) to not pay teachers, staff, or school administrators who were off during that period. Those staff and teachers are (I believe) going to make up those days elsewhere. If your area has a teachers’ union they may have a different situation based on their teachers union contracts.
However, they did miss a paycheck during the strike (I believe).
As we have a very supportive parent base there were a lot of fundraisers to help those who were unable to make ends meet with the missing paycheck money. Parents collected food, gift cards, and gas cards to help out.
How long can a teacher strike last?
Who knows. That’s the hardest part. For us, in our district, they announced the strike on a Thursday — the strike started the following Thursday (giving families lead time to work on safe places for their children) and lasted through to the next Friday when children returned to school.
In total, our strike was 6 school days but lasted 8 total days. I have heard of strikes lasting 9 — not sure if that included weekend days or just school days).
In reality, our strike could’ve been a lot faster if our state legislature had taken it more seriously from the beginning (they adjourned early on the Thursday of the strike, and legislatures weren’t even at the capitol the Friday of the strike). The strike did end when they passed school district budgets with increased educational funding.
How does a teacher strike work?
This was my biggest question as we went into it. This was the first time I had dealt with a teacher strike. I’ve heard about crossing the picket line and union members fighting with each other – I didn’t know what to expect.
First off, we don’t have teacher unions, so it may work differently in a state that has a union. Our teachers can belong to an association (it is not required as it was when my husband taught in California).
They announced a vote on whether or not they should strike. Our teachers had 3 days to vote on striking and then the results were announced on a Thursday.
They announced that the strike would begin on the following Thursday (giving parents 7 days to prepare)
Sidenote: I think, most people thought that it wouldn’t ever happen. I run the newsletter for our Jr High and it was hard to get anything firm from the district on what their plans were (as late as the Tuesday before the strike they seemed to think the work stoppage wouldn’t happen).
By Tuesday evening the district had sent out a notice that they would likely shut the schools starting on Thursday.
It was pretty clear that they may open schools if they had enough staffing, and that the decision would be made each day around 5 pm as to what they planned to do the following day.
The first email I actually got about it all was actually from my employer (I work as a nurse). They had daycare options available and were asking those who didn’t have children to place be flexible for those who had childcare issues and be willing to switch.
Parents were also making lists of options for childcare during the strike and distributing them on social media. Many local places opened their doors. Places like gym classes and regular extracurricular activities opened up daytime options. While these places did make money, it was also clear that people were trying to help out parents as much as possible. Some churches even opened up free daycare asking only for donations.
Speaking of social media, there were a lot of groups set up to help support teachers. And a lot of people were not in support of our teachers.
Frankly, I wasn’t a fan of being on social media at the time (plus, I had kids at home and that was stressful enough).
While I am totally behind our teachers, it was extremely stressful. I work from home, and the kids were home. I had to adjust what I was able to get done and just deal with the sudden chaos. It also reminded me to get my stuff together before the summer.
While I tried to keep my frustrations with the capitol, it was hard not to let some frustrations leak into my feelings about school and towards the district. I’ll be honest.
And, as always — everyone spun it the way they wanted to see it. Which, basically drives me crazy. So I mostly just looked at Instagram. 🙂
How did parents get information on the teacher strike?
This was our first strike, at least the first I have dealt with. The school district used all the communication methods at its disposal. Each evening around 3-5 pm we would get a text, email, and phone call (from each district) that said if we were or were not having school.
On Tuesday they announced schools would re-open on Thursday, but on Wednesday at around 5 pm, they announced they realized they didn’t have the staffing to support a safe work environment and had to cancel Thursday’s school.
What happens to students when teachers go on strike?
The short answer? They stay home. Or they go to the capitol to protest.
The long answer — teachers were very thoughtful.
- Prom still happened
- Sports still happened
- The Jr High Disneyland trip still happened
- The high school play still happened.
I am grateful for teachers who put all this effort into our kids and still allowed them to compete and perform. Nothing major was missed (especially at the high school level). Good stuff.
Of course, our strike happened at possibly one of the worst times. AP testing was coming up, and AZ merit (our state testing) had just finished. Things were crazy.
Did you have to make up days for the strike?
This may have been the most stressful part, as we had a trip planned for the week after the strike.
Our elementary schools are in a different district than our other schools
And the elementary school district was not forthcoming with its plans.
In the beginning, I emailed the superintendent and asked her to consider going with the # of hours vs the # of days and she wrote back saying I was the only parent who had asked for that and she would stick to the # of days, but that we could pull our kids out early if we wanted to for previously planned things.
Of course, after the strike, she changed her tune.
We ended up taking one shortened day and making it a full day.
And that is enough hours.
Our school year remained the same, even though we missed 6 days.
How did parents help during the strike?
Besides parents taking the load of the children, parents helped in a number of ways.
Many opened their homes to working parents so their kids would have a safe place to be.
They helped collect food for kids who rely on the national school lunch program
As I said above they helped collect gift cards for staff/teachers who would be missing pay for essentials.
They spread the word, so parents would know what was going on.
All in all, life goes on after the strike? Was it worth it? Honestly, I have no idea.
I know that there are a LOT of parents are mainly ticked off. I get that side. We each do our job. I know we had nurses call in sick as they couldn’t get any daycare worked out and that shifted things at the hospital, and inductions were put on hold.
A lot of parents really stood beside teachers, and I really get that side too. We need more money for classrooms in Arizona, and I will certainly keep that in mind in November (although I always do, so that’s not a big change).
So, that’s that. We actually only have 3 weeks left of school here. My kids are pretty much over school at this point. I think it will be hard for teachers to get the kids to re-focus after those days off. We do love our teachers though, and I hope this creates a wave of change.
Have questions — post them below. Maybe I or another reader has an answer. 🙂
**Want to rant about a strike or teachers? Don’t post in the comments, I’ll just remove them. **
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are teacher strikes legal?
What is a legal strike? That will really depend on your state and maybe even your town/district/county. In public schools, teachers are public employees and in some places, state law prohibits public employee strikes.
Why do teachers strike?
This is a loaded question. There are many reasons why teachers might strike:
- Smaller class sizes
- Education reform
- Needing a new contract
- The negotiations process falling apart
Why did they start their strike on a Thursday?
It seems to make sense to start a strike Monday. That being said, our teachers voted to give parents 7 days to prepare for the upcoming strike. Since their vote was on a Thursday evening, not a Sunday evening that meant the strike started on Thursday.
And while you’re here, jump on my practical parenting newsletter — and check out my other education posts below that: