Area teachers are setting a bad example for our children by skipping class.

So many Madison teachers called in “sick” for work that school officials canceled classes for a third straight day Friday. That irresponsible action has forced thousands of parents to scramble to find child care or miss work themselves.

The sick-outs this week spread to a slew of additional school districts across Dane County and other parts of the state, with some teachers joining union-backed demonstrations at the state Capitol in Madison.

We don’t begrudge the teachers for speaking up and getting involved in government decisions that affect them. We understand their opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to scale back their collective bargaining rights and benefits.

But the school day ends around 3:30 p.m. That leaves teachers in Madison and surrounding communities plenty of time after work to drive Downtown if they wish to have their say at the Capitol.

Senate Democrats skipped town Thursday to avoid and delay a vote on Walker’s budget plan. That was irresponsible, too.

But schoolteachers are closer to our kids, making the impact of their bad behavior on families and education immediate. They shouldn’t walk out on their students and community. Their absence is hurting their cause.

To be fair, many Madison teachers and those in other districts did show up for school — but not enough to safely hold classes, administrators said. And some teachers found better ways to express their views without canceling classes. In Green Bay, for example, most teachers went to work, helped their students learn, then attended a local rally Wednesday night that got a lot of attention.

Those teachers who have ditched on their classes for one, two or in the case of the Madison district, three days should learn from another educator: UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin.

Martin has kept UW-Madison open for educating young people despite this week’s dramatic demonstrations and politicking just blocks from her campus.

Martin wrote on her Twitter account Wednesday night: The “political process is very important, but this should not come at the cost of instruction. Classes as usual.”

Now that’s a positive example for young people.

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