A bill approved in both houses of the California legislature would allow certified teachers six paid weeks of maternity leave.
Assembly Bill 568 would require school districts, charter schools, and community colleges to pay for a minimum of six weeks’ leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or miscarriage.
Teachers with at least 12 months on the job and 1,250 hours logged are eligible to take 12 weeks of maternity leave under the federal Family Leave Act (FMLA). But, unlike the California measure, the federal leave is unpaid unless teachers have enough sick days banked to cover the absence.
More often than not, teachers use paid vacation or sick days to cover time off during pregnancy. California teachers get 10 sick days each year that can be banked. Once a teacher uses up her sick days, she can qualify for differential leave pay—the amount of her salary remaining after the district has paid a substitute to fill the position. Differential leave pay is available for up to five months.
But the California Federation of Teachers argued in a statement that teachers shouldn’t have to give up sick days, nor should they have to schedule pregnancies according to the school schedule or be forced to manage with a reduced paycheck for a period of time.
“It’s patently unfair to make women use sick leave and vacation time for pregnancy-related, medically necessary absences, or to recuperate after childbirth,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, the bill’s author, in a statement. “We know these kinds of discriminatory leave policies are costing us good teachers because women don’t want to be penalized for having a baby, and that needs to change.”
Schools responsible for footing the maternity leave bill are not happy. They’ve appealed to Governor Jerry Brown, who has the power to veto the legislation. According to CBS Sacramento, a coalition of school districts, charter schools, and community colleges have sent the governor a letter arguing that the added expense “would compete with the costs of educational programs and student services within finite budgets.”
The California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO) argued that the state should help pay for maternity leaves. “Without a direct state funding source, this adds to the school district’s financial burden as a new liability to be absorbed within an already constrained fiscal environment,” a statement from CASBO read.
Most of the 193 countries in the United Nations have a national paid parental leave law, according to the World Policy Analysis Center at the University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health. The United States is one of a few UN countries that does not.
All this means that in the United States, new moms and dads have to get back to work sooner than they’d like because they simply can’t afford unpaid time off. In this Early Years blog, Lillian Mongeau takes on our less than stellar parental leave policy, with a little help from comedian John Oliver.
California’s paid parental leave bill is now in the governor’s hands. He has until next month to sign it.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.