Parents forced to look for last-minute child care if teachers go on strike

SEATTLE -- Samantha Ramirez is counting down the days.

“I am going to be so excited because I am going to be in second grade,” Ramirez said.

Back to school items are already checked off.

“I have everything,” Ramirez said.

What they don’t have is the green light that Samantha’s elementary school in Tacoma will start on time.

“I just have to figure it out if they go on strike,” said Samantha’s mom, Zohar Ramirez.

Zohar is a single mom of three and a strike would throw a wrench into her plans.

In Pierce County, teachers in Tacoma Public Schools and the Bethel School District are still fighting for more pay.

With most classes scheduled to start next week, the drama over  contract negotiations has a big population of families in Western Washington wondering if their teachers will strike.

“It’s our turn to demand that money and that we deserve that money,” Laura Hittenrauch, with Bethel Education Association, said.

On Tuesday night, Seattle teachers voted to authorize a strike, meaning the district and the union would have to agree on a deal by Wednesday, Sept. 5,  to avoid the disruption of the first week of school.

Dozens of districts have agreed to double digit pay increases for their teachers but there are many others still in limbo with just days before the start of school.

If there is a strike, the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound will open their doors to any family. The last time Tacoma teachers went on strike it was in 2011, when the organization accommodated hundreds of kids.

“We get contacted often by parents who want to do something fun for their kids,” Operations Director Elvin Bucu said.

Bucu says they are preparing staff to field calls from parents looking for last-minute child care.

He says the goal is to help all families, especially low-income families, with affordable care.

“A lot of our games and activities are educational anyways even when we play basketball we will throw in some math,” Bucu said.

Zohar says finances are tough so she’s grateful for the option.

Bethel teachers will be back at the negotiating table on Thursday.

Tacoma Public Schools have asked for a mediator to help with negotiations.

Teachers in Tacoma are having a meeting Wednesday night where a vote could possibly happen on whether or not to strike.