Education Week: With No Paid Parental Leave, Many Teachers Return to Class Before They're Ready

Monday, April 1, 2019

By MADELINE WILL

Fighting for Paid Time Off

[Kathy] Hoffman is advocating for 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, and plans to prioritize this effort next legislative session. She said she will build a coalition around the issue with administrators, health-care professionals, insurance providers, and hopefully someone from the governor’s office.

Meanwhile, in California, lawmakers are planning to push for paid parental leave for teachers once again. The state already gives many workers up to six weeks of partial pay to care for a new child or sick relative, but public school teachers are ineligible for the benefit.

In 2017, a bill that would have required school districts, charter schools, and community colleges to pay for at least six weeks of leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or miscarriage passed both chambers of the state legislature. But it was vetoed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, who said teacher leave policies should be decided through the collective-bargaining process at the local level.

Now, state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the bill’s author, has introduced the measure again this year, in hopes that newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom will be more receptive to it. Newsom has already proposed extending paid parental leave in the state to six months, although a spokesman for the governor said leave policies would have to be negotiated between districts and their employees.

“School districts are not just willfully doing this,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes you have to ensure it gets done through state law.”

Still, the last time this bill was up for consideration, districts said they couldn’t afford the costs associated with offering paid leave. Gonzalez countered that the policy could be a cost-saver for districts in the long run if it helps with retention, since it’s expensive for districts to replace teachers year after year.

In New York, change happened through a groundswell of teacher activism, said John Troutman McCrann, a math teacher at Harvest Collegiate High School in the city who is the leader of his school’s union chapter.

A teacher had started a Change.org petition to fight for paid parental leave that gathered nearly 85,000 signatures. That inspired the United Federation of Teachers president to convene a task force of educators (including McCrann), lawyers, and negotiators who ultimately struck an agreement with the city.

“It was just crazy to me, that in a sector of the economy that is supposed to be about caring for children, we would not have any means for someone who wanted to spend time bonding with her new little one,” McCrann said.