Paid family leave for teachers set for vote in Assembly

Paid family leave for teachers set for vote in Assembly

(Calif.) Among the more than 1,000 bills that won passage to the Assembly floor last week was one that would require all K-12 schools and community colleges to provide at least six weeks family leave to employees.

AB 500 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would greatly improve the existing pregnancy leave benefit that typically requires teachers and other certified employees to shoulder the cost of hiring their own replacements.

“We are losing so many young women from the teaching profession and one of the big reasons is because of the lack of a family leave benefit,” Gonzalez said in a TV interview last week.

According to estimates from a staff analysis of the bill, providing full-pay for six weeks of pregnancy leave could cost about $20 million per year.

Currently, district employees can take six to eight weeks of leave after their child’s birth and another 12 weeks for bonding—but they don’t get full pay.

Most school employees use up existing sick time and then receive a differential pay for the remaining time off. As currently constructed, the differential pay is calculated by subtracting the cost of hiring a replacement teacher from the district employee’s salary.

Some districts participate in the State Disability Insurance program, which usually requires employees to opt into and pay a premium in other to take a claim later.

The bill comes forward as a growing number of employers and public policy advocates are putting pressure on Congress to improve family leave rules nationally.

A 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center found 82 percent of respondents support paid leave for mothers following the birth or adoption of a child. About half said that employers should be required to pay for the benefit, while close to the other half said employers should be allowed to decide whether or not to provide family leave.

Gonzalez’ bill moved out of the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee last week with a single vote in opposition. It also received just one objection in passing out of both the Assembly’s Education Committee and the Committee on Higher Education.

Last year Gonzalez co-authored a nearly identical bill that won strong majority support in both houses before being vetoed by former-Gov. Jerry Brown.

In his rejection message, Brown said that decisions about leave policies should be locally-driven and thus, should be left for the collective bargaining process. Gonzalez and other supporters have said that many times union negotiators trade away the leave issue in exchange for higher wages or other benefits that a larger share of the membership can utilize and thus, the only way to provide full-paid, family leave is through a statewide mandate.

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