When teachers across Arizona walked off the job last Thursday to protest low pay, last-in-the-nation education spending, and the Legislature’s skewed fiscal priorities, it created a ripple effect across hundreds of thousands of households.
What are we going to do with the kids?
Parents who couldn’t take the unplanned days off from work had to scramble. Some schools closed for class but stayed open for breakfast and lunch, so kids wouldn’t miss meals they rely on at school.
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona delivered backpacks of food they provide to some high-need students early, so the kids wouldn’t miss the food they usually take home for the weekend.
Families made the decision to leave the kids at home on their own, or sent them to a friend or family member’s home for the day. Stay-at-home parents offered to watch neighbors’ kids to help out.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson opened from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.
The city of Tucson’s KIDCO program stayed open Thursday and Friday at consolidated sites.
Employers welcomed their workers’ kids in many places, and offered flexible schedules to accommodate the unexpected days off from school.
Parents and supporters packed bags with snacks and water for teachers who traveled to Phoenix to march to the Capitol on Thursday. They’ve stood for miles along Broadway with signs advocating for educators and more education funding from the state Legislature.
Drivers honked, shouted and waved to show their approval.
At Victory Worship Center, 2561 Ruthrauff Road, a legion of volunteers greeted parents bringing in kids on Thursday morning for what they called their #RedForEd Day Camp, named after the teachers’ movement name and hashtag.
The church opened its Ruthrauff and Oro Valley locations to families who needed child care during the strike. Even before 9 a.m. on Thursday they had about 350 kids between the two locations, and they were steadily coming in, said Ryan Burbank, the church’s children’s pastor. The Ruthrauff center is equipped to handle 1,000 kids, and the Oro Valley location can take up to 150. The program is free and open to kids in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Volunteers led groups of kids in game rooms, a version of dodge ball played with beach balls, play equipment, crafts and fun science demonstrations, like unpoppable bubbles. They called the main worship space a “movie theater” and kids watched “Finding Dory,” before having lunch.
“There are families who have nowhere for their kids to go,” said Executive Pastor Scott Berkey. “We’re going to do our best to go as long as this thing takes.”
Victory is a Christian nondenominational church, Burbank said, but none of the activities were religion-based.
We continue to stand with the educators, and are encouraged by the outpouring of support. We’ve seen #RedForEd signs in restaurant windows and painted on car windows.
Many school districts have canceled class for Monday, and the longer the walkout continues, the more we must come together as a community to help families, and the striking educators, cope with the changes and challenges.
Together, we can do this.