As I write this, our state in experiencing the most historic movement in public education since…really, ever. With an affirmative vote of teachers from across the state, a walk-out has been scheduled to protest the need for increased funding for public education. Every mama’s head is now swirling around what this means for their family, so here’s my take on how to navigate this turbulent time.
Take a deep breath. Rest assured that your child’s school and district has a plan.
The very heart and mission of our schools is to serve students. So while no district wants to close their doors, and simultaneously inconvenience the parents of 1.1 million public school children, schools have to take student safety into consideration first. If staffing levels don’t support an environment that is safe for kids, schools will need to close when a walk-out occurs.
School districts have known that a walk-out was a very real possibility for weeks. Leaders have been working tirelessly behind the scenes trying to take every scenario into consideration and shaping their plans for transportation, food service, athletics, special education…and the list goes on. They know that you’re eager to find out if days will need to be made-up at the end of the year, if graduation will take place and if you’ll get a refund for your before or after school program. Now that a date has been selected, give them a beat to finalize their draft plans and then stay tuned as they begin sharing the details on how a school closure will impact you.
Your district will communicate with you.
The local media provides an awesome source of info that’s easy to share from a tweet or FB post, but remember that the best source of information will always be your child’s district or school. Each one is under separate governance and will be communicating to you through their established system what you need to know. Make sure your emergency contact information is current at your child’s school and check their Facebook page and Twitter feed often.
If in fact schools do close, no one really knows how long it will last. Many districts will provide you with access to resources, not only for local childcare options or support, but also with online resources so your child can stay engaged and learning when they’re not in school.
This is a state issue, not a district issue.
You might be wondering how we got into this situation? School public districts and charter schools receive most of their funding from the state after a budget is passed each year in the legislature. The money they get has many strings attached. Most of it goes to maintenance and operations to pay for staff salaries, with a very small amount earmarked for capital needs, like textbooks, technology or building repairs. During the 2008 recession, funding for education was drastically reduced and has yet to be fully restored.
Some of what the advocates of the #RedForEd movement are pushing for includes increased funding for teacher and support staff salaries, as well as an increase in the per student funding that districts receive to help offset the money that was cut from schools during the recession. And yes, many charter school teachers are participating in this movement, too. As of the time this was published, the Governor has put forth a proposal that would provide them with part of what they’re asking for, but doesn’t address certain things the group originally outlined as key to making Arizona a leader…or…well, at least 48th instead of 49th, in the nation in funding for education.
What the next round of shredded and tattered history books will say about how Arizona handled this very real education crisis is yet to be written.
My best suggestions? Stay informed. Civic engagement in our state is at an all time high! Keep the momentum going by staying connected to this movement as it unfolds. What a great lesson us mamas can share with our kids!
And finally, between now and next Thursday, take time to honor and recognize the teachers and support staff who have made a lasting impact for you or your kids. Regardless of how you feel about this movement, now more than ever, our teachers need to know that we love, value and respect them for the time and energy they spend investing in our children. Write a thank you note and let them know that their efforts do not go unnoticed. With all the confusion and chaos right now, this little gesture will mean more than you know!