Arizona Teacher Walkout Causes Stress for Some Parents and Teachers

Natalie Rubio is one of many parents who support teachers, but is already having logistical problems with the statewide walkout.
Natalie Rubio is one of many parents who support teachers, but is already having logistical problems with the statewide walkout. Patricia Escarcega
On the first day of Arizona’s historic, statewide teacher walkout, Natalie Rubio took the day off from work and took her two elementary school-aged daughters to Desert Sky Mall in west Phoenix.

Taking a day off isn’t easy for Rubio. She works in a day treatment facility for adults with disabilities, and doesn’t have a lot of flexibility in her work schedule. Like many parents with school-age children, she supports the teachers but is already struggling with problems.

She talked to her employers as soon as her children’s school, Glendale American School in Glendale, alerted parents earlier in the week that it would be closed for the length of the #RedForEd teacher walkout that began on Thursday.

"I’m nervous... I’ve never been a part of something this big in a public sphere." — Daisy Maestas, Tolleson teacher.

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She managed to get at least Thursday and Friday off. But she’s worried about the walkout dragging on for days, or even weeks.

"I support the teachers," Rubio says. "But at the same time, I don’t want my kids missing more school. With learning already taking place so slowly already, I don’t want the learning to slow down even more."

She's not sure how she'll juggle work and family if the statewide walkout doesn't end soon.

"It’s not that I think parents consider school as a type of daycare. We consider it as a place for education ... But those eight hours, we take advantage of them to work for our families."

Apart from the stress of securing childcare, she's found the messaging from her school confusing.

Last week, she received a notice from her children's school alerting parents about the impending walkout.

"They sent out papers to us, but it didn't state the exact date. So I thought it was going to be last Friday," she said..

Rubio mistakenly took off the wrong date off from work to take care of her girls. She didn’t realize her error until the school called later in the day regarding the unexplained absence.

Worrying about the walkout has been stressful, she said.

But she knows it could be worse. She has a partner and a mother that can help her with last-minute childcare needs. She knows many parents aren’t so lucky.

"A lot of parents don’t have the privilege of having daycare, because daycare is very expensive. It’s heart-breaking for the parents who have to work and can't ask for the day off. I can't imagine what they're going through," she said.

On the eve of Arizona's unprecedented walkout, one young Tolleson Union High School teacher was feeling the stress in a different way.

Daisy Maestas is an ELL (English Language Learner) and ceramics teacher in her fourth year of teaching at Tolleson Union High School District. Before #RedForEd, she’d never actively participated in any kind of grassroots movement.

"I’m nervous," she says. "I’ve never been a part of something this big in a public sphere. I try to stay in the background because I'm not a vocal person ... But this is an issue that’s very real and very personal – not just for me, but for my students, too."

The issues go way beyond teachers' salaries, she said. It's about adequately funding public education. She believes Arizona needs sustainable funding to attract and keep more teachers, and to pay for much-needed support staff, like instructional aides.

Before the walkout kicked off on Thursday, she talked to her students about why she and her colleagues planned to rally this week. She said she's felt supported by her students, and by the city of Tolleson, which has been vocal in its support of the Red for Ed movement. (The city has planned for at least two days of kid's programming, and free breakfast and lunch for Tolleson students).

"They understand that this isn’t walking out on our students – it’s walking out for our students," she said.

Maestas never imagined she would find herself marching on the Arizona Capitol. "I don’t like big crowds," she said.

But for her, it’s the right thing to do.

"I’ve invested my life [into teaching]," she says. "I've gotten gray hairs over it. I feel like I have a moral obligation to look out for my students' best interests."
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Patricia Escárcega was Phoenix New Times' food critic.