Teaching Profession

Paid Maternity Leave for Teachers? California’s Governor Says No Once Again

By Madeline Will — October 14, 2019 2 min read
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For the second time in two years, California’s legislature passed a bill that would have given teachers at least six weeks of paid maternity leave. But once again, the bill was vetoed by the state’s governor.

On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill, which would have made the Golden State one of just a handful of states to provide teachers with paid parental leave.

“Providing every California worker with paid family leave is a noble goal and a priority for my administration,” Newsom said in his veto message. “However, this bill will likely result in annual costs of tens of millions of dollars that should be considered as part of the annual budget process and as part of local collective bargaining.”

Newsom’s predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, had vetoed a similar bill in 2017 for similar reasons.

The measure would have required school districts, charter schools, and community colleges to pay for at least six weeks of leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or miscarriage. In California, teachers typically cobble together their vacation and sick days to have some fully paid time off with their newborns. Once those are exhausted, teachers can qualify for differential pay, which is their salary minus the cost of their substitute, for up to five months. The cost of a substitute varies, but in the San Francisco Unified district, for instance, it can be up to $240 a day.

(Across the country, many teachers supplement their banked sick days with unpaid leave. Federal law guarantees teachers and other employees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.)

See also: With No Paid Parental Leave, Many Teachers Return to Class Before They’re Ready

State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who authored the bill both times, said in a statement that the measure was not about providing broad paid family leave, but specifically addressing “the medical condition of pregnancy and maternity leave.”

“Teachers and school employees who are overwhelmingly women need to be protected like private sector workers,” she said. “We aren’t done fighting for this. We have to address the inequity eventually.”

California school districts have said they would struggle to afford the costs associated with such a policy. Last month, a coalition of school districts and education associations in the state sent Newsom a letter urging him to veto the bill, arguing that it would “increase the financial pressures” on schools without any additional money from the state.

“We must take into account the impact of this additional fiscal burden, as well as the impact on our ability to fully staff classrooms and educational programs that are already threatened by a persistent teacher shortage,” the letter said. “Our primary goal is to educate students and provide them with the necessary support and services so that they may succeed academically.”

Still, in an interview with Education Week earlier this year, Gonzalez said she thought the policy could be a cost-saver for districts in the long run if it helps with retention. Among the teachers who leave the profession voluntarily, nearly a quarter say it’s because of personal life reasons, which include pregnancy and child care, according to the most recent federal data.

Image: In this April photo, Marianna Ruggerio, a physics teacher at Auburn High School in Rockford, Ill., teaches while eight months pregnant with her second child. Her school district did not offer paid maternity leave, so she planned to use her sick days, then take unpaid leave. —Alyssa Schukar for Education Week-File

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.