As the budget protests continue at Wisconsin's statehouse, at least one district spent time scrambling to staff its schools with volunteer babysitters in case teachers decide to cut class again on Tuesday.
Milwaukee's public school superintendent feels confident classes will go on as planned on Tuesday but system officials lined up volunteers so working parents have a place to drop their children in case the teachers don't show up again. One-fifth of the teachers at Milwaukee's public schools called in sick on Friday, forcing the system to shut down for the day. Monday was a previously scheduled break.
"Emergency childcare is very hard to drum up," Roseann St. Aubin, Communications Director for Milwaukee Public Schools, tells Fox News. "We think things have changed in the last 24 hours, and we're keeping our ear to the ground," St. Aubin added.
What has changed is the head of Wisconsin's largest teachers union has asked members who've been protesting to get back to the classroom. So far, school closures have only been limited to a few districts across the state.
"We call on them to return to duty by day, and find ways to be vocal and visible after their work day is done," Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell said on Sunday.
The Madison Metropolitan School District has been closed since last Wednesday but also plans to reopen Tuesday. A posting on the district website begs parents for patience. "We understand that managing a fourth day off will be a significant hardship for families and do appreciate your tolerance in these unusual times," the statement says.
But patience appears to be in short supply from parents who have had to miss work or find people to take care of their children at the last minute. "Yeah, I wish I could walk away from my job and expect to get paid," Ashland parent Greg Alexander told Duluth's Fox 21 News.
Some parents don't have the option of staying home. When Darlene Meiners, administrator at the Playful Kids Learning Center in Madison, showed up for work, she was swarmed with parents who had to find a place for their children.
"You could tell they were thinking 'I don't know what's going on. I don't know where to put my child. I didn't have time to tell my bosses and I have to be at work. Can you take him?'"
Meiners also had three school-age children of her own to worry about. "I had a double whammy," she said. "It was a strain. I'm not going to lie; it was stressful. It was something that everybody got thrown into and had to go into emergency mode."
Wisconsin is facing a $3.6 billion budget gap. To help close the gap, Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan would take away the current ability of most public employees, including teachers, to negotiate benefits and work conditions. It would also cut their paychecks by about 8 percent by requiring them to contribute more to their health care and pension benefits. The measure also stipulates that any wage increase for government employees above the consumer price index would have to be approved in a voter referendum.
The average Wisconsin teacher salary for the 2009-2010 school year was $52,644 not including benefits.