The homecoming game has been canceled, and parents are running out of ways to keep cranky kids entertained because of a teacher strike in which a key sticking point is more than just a local issue: the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
In school districts around the country, the Bush administration's centerpiece education law is beginning to emerge as an issue at the bargaining table.
In Sandy's 4,200-student Oregon Trail District, where the strike is three weeks old, teachers are afraid they will be replaced, transferred or otherwise penalized if they, their students or their schools fail to measure up under the law, which sets stringent new standards for performance.
Though salaries and benefits are also stumbling blocks in the dispute, the 216 striking teachers and the school board in this city of 5,400 people about 40 miles from Portland are wrangling over contract language related to No Child Left Behind. Several marathon bargaining sessions have stretched into the wee hours.
"No Child Left Behind is creating issues we didn't expect four or five years ago," said Larry Wolf, who heads the Oregon Education Association, the state teachers union. "The law's approaching deadlines raise flags for both sides."
Under No Child Left Behind, schools must bring increasing percentages of children from all backgrounds up to scratch on reading, math and writing tests. Schools that repeatedly fail to make enough progress face a series of sanctions, the most serious of which include closure and a takeover by a private company.
The law also says that, by the end of this school year, teachers must be "highly qualified" in the subject they teach. That definition varies from state to state but generally means that teachers must have majored in the subject they teach, must be certified by the state and must pass an exam on that subject.
Teachers in some places are pushing for contract language to protect themselves.
In Oregon, unions are asking for the right to take part in developing the new curriculums required under No Child Left Behind, and they want assurances that staff members will not be replaced or transferred if a school fails to make enough progress under the law.
Teachers want to make sure that student performance on tests is not the basis for negative action against an employee. And during layoffs and recalls, they say, school systems should not be allowed to take into account whether a teacher has been deemed "highly qualified."
School board officials, though, say that laws such as No Child Left Behind affect what can and cannot go into a contract.
"We can't incorporate things that would violate or conflict with those laws," Oregon Trail school board member Wayne Kuechler said.
In Philadelphia, where the public school system is now run by the state, the teachers union conceded some seniority hiring rights in the latest round of contract talks to give the district more options in hiring teachers to staff schools that are marked as low performers under the federal law.
"At every turn in the contract negotiations, the press and demands of No Child Left Behind were always present," said union spokeswoman Barbara Goodman. "The bottom line is, there were a lot of changes made in seniority."
In Warwick, R.I., teachers and the district have been negotiating a contract for three years without success, in part because of No Child Left Behind.
"Anytime you add additional duties, teachers expect to be paid, which is reasonable," said John Thompson, chairman of the school committee in Warwick. "But with pension and health care costs going through the roof, we can't afford things like higher pay for more work."
To meet No Child Left Behind's requirements, the National School Boards Association is encouraging school systems to consider more aggressive ways of recruiting teachers.
Those include offering higher pay and other incentives to those who agree to teach in hard-to-staff schools or hard-to-fill fields, such as advanced sciences or special education. But those ideas could cause an upheaval during contract talks.