Utah teachers waved signs at passing cars and went door to door Tuesday spreading their message for more school funding. Others stayed home rather than take part in the statewide walkout that had parents scrambling for day care and older students enjoying their day off.

Most of the state's teachers participated in the one-day "job action."

"It is our hope that the message we send on Dec. 5 results in greater public awareness of the need for a long-term funding plan," said Phyllis Sorensen, president of the Utah Education Association.

The union produced numerous signs, "Utah students deserve more," and more than 170,000 copies of a flier for distribution in neighborhoods from Logan to St. George. The flier states Utah will see 100,000-plus new students during the next 10 years and that the state needs to provide 4,000 new classrooms, or 172 new schools, and more than 4,000 new teachers to accommodate the growth.

It adds, in bold, that "professionally competitive salaries are needed to recruit and retain quality teachers."

Teachers in Granite, by far the largest of the non-participants, said they have already done their part by staging a one-day walkout last February. Teachers in the Sevier, Iron and South Summit districts taught but wore red clothing or ribbons to indicate their sympathy with the cause.

In the Duchesne County School District, an e-mail poll showed teachers overwhelmingly opposed the job action, but they wore black in a show of solidarity and plan to pass out information door-to-door during the week.

Among those in dark clothing: the superintendent.

"I was really pleased," said Duchesne Educators Association President Susan Bellon.

Hillcrest High School teacher Marshall Brown was with several other Jordan District teachers at 900 East and Van Winkle Expressway Tuesday morning, waving signs and encouraging commuters to honk. Many did.

"I was skeptical about this, but after seeing the results I'm convinced," he said. "This is the first time I've really seen teachers motivated to do something about school funding, and a lot of people have come by with thumbs up or honks or waves."

Feelings about the job action's efficacy are far from unanimous, however. Among the many thumbs up at a honk and wave at 1300 South and Foothill Drive was one thumbs down and one motorist who displayed a more expressive hand gesture.

Kent Hofeins, who teaches sixth grade at Nephi Middle School, spent the day at home helping his children with their history fair projects rather than walk the picket line.

"Very few of the teachers had a chance to vote on it," he said. "I know I didn't. I think it's going to hurt us."

Many people believe the job action is solely for higher teacher salaries, Hofeins said. That is one aspect of it, but the strike's intent goes beyond that, attempting to force the Legislature to come up with a long-term education funding plan for schools generally.

The UEA board of directors called for the strike last week after a legislative task force failed to produce an acceptable long-term funding proposal.

"It's not that we're not grateful for what's been done," said Linda Goldston, a teacher at Farrer Middle School who had gathered in the cold at Provo's Rock Canyon Elementary School Tuesday morning to hand out fliers. "It's not that we're asking for zillions. We're asking for a plan."

"We've been underfunded as long as I've been here," said Bruce Evans, a counselor at Provo High School and a 30-year veteran of Utah schools. "Classes are too big. The kids haven't had textbooks. There's no plan. Utah's only putting out a few hundred teachers every year, and most of them are leaving the state."

Aimee Brown, a fifth-grade teacher at Bountiful Elementary, planned to attend a Davis District teachers meeting late Tuesday morning.

"I have mixed emotions" about the strike, she said. "It's hard, because all the teachers are not united about it. I don't know if this is the best way of going about it. It puts me back in curriculum a day, and I'll have to make that up."

She said it would have been better to see what happens in the legislative session and take action then, if needed.

The Utah chapters of the American Federation of Teachers, representing fewer teachers than the powerful UEA, support increased funding but are against the strike.

"The appropriate time for a strike or job action is when contract negotiations fail," read a statement from the Washington County Federation of Teachers and Staff.

The State Board of Education said it understood teacher frustration and agreed that schools are underfunded, but stopped short of taking a position on the job action.

"Since we have chosen to have the children . . . we must be willing to make the education of our children our highest priority," the board said in a written statement. It urged "all to work together" and "ignore bruised egos" to come up with at least a five-year funding plan.

The statement had originally included a call for tax increases, but that language, feared to be "too abrasive," was amended to ask for "other reliable long-term sources of revenue."

The job action caused some inconvenience for many parents who had to arrange day care for their school-age children. To accommodate all those kids at loose ends, the Greater Salt Lake Boys and Girls Clubs opened their daily after-school drop-in programs at 8:30 Tuesday morning.

"We understand and support teachers, but it's a little bit difficult for us," said director of operations Lee Ann Saldivar. "We will open and pay a bunch of overtime."

Many older students planned to hit the malls or ski resorts during the unusual day off.

"They're supposed to sit around and think about their future, but how many are going to do that?" one Bountiful parent said.

The free day comes at a price, however. Districts have planned makeup days for the day missed by the job action, coming out of Christmas vacation, spring break or Presidents Day.

Like many of his colleagues, Mark Durfey, a teacher in Murray's Riverview Junior High, said he's "middle of the road" regarding the strike. He was going to spend the day skiing but changed his mind.

"I'm just going to stay home and meditate," he said.


Sharon Haddock and Jennifer Toomer Cook contributed to this story.