Teachers unions call on Brown to sign paid maternity leave bill

Teachers unions call on Brown to sign paid maternity leave bill

(Calif.) Teacher union officials took to the Capitol steps on Wednesday, urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that could guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave for all K-12 and community college teachers and classified staff.

The news conference held yesterday comes just a couple weeks after CBS Sacramento reported a coalition of districts, charter schools and community colleges appealed to Brown to veto Assembly Bill 568, arguing that the cost involved would cut into already strained education budgets.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, author of AB 568, said her bill will prevent employment discrimination and help schools by, in part, alleviating the state’s shortage of teachers.

“We have a dire teacher shortage in California,” Gonzalez Fletcher said. “Female teachers shouldn’t face extra employment burdens simply because they’re pregnant. It’s unfair. It’s discriminatory. And it will drive more and more women away from the profession at a time when we can least afford to do so.”

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, teachers with at least one year on the job and 1,250 hours logged are eligible to take 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. In California, teachers can use sick days and paid vacation to cover time off during pregnancy, and once those are both depleted, they can qualify for differential leave pay—the salary amount remaining after the district has paid a substitute to fill the position—for up to five months. The state also offers paid family leave through disability insurance.

Some districts already offer paid maternity or paternity leave as a strategy for recruiting and retaining teachers. Of the 211 districts surveyed in 2016 by the Learning Policy Institute and California School Boards Association, 23 percent said they offered this benefit.

AB 568 would extend maternity leave benefits to teachers and school employees regardless of what district they work for in an attempt to make the profession more attractive to potential teachers and to retain those already in the classroom.

Under the bill, school districts, charter schools and community colleges would be required to pay for a minimum of six weeks leave for pregnancy, childbirth, miscarriage or other issues related to reproductive health.

Legislative analysts estimate the costs for local districts and community colleges—including all statutory benefits and the costs associated with hiring substitute teachers—would be in the mid to high tens of millions of dollars each year to provide six weeks of paid maternity leave.

While many of those opposed to the bill have expressed support for the intent of AB 568, they also argue that the requirements would be difficult to find funding for without taking away from other education programs.

In a statement submitted to the Legislature, the California Association of School Business Officials said, “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.”

Members of the California Federation of Teachers reportedly delivered more than 1,000 letters in support of the bill to Brown following the press conference on Wednesday.