Teachers spend a large portion of their day with the nation's children as they strive to educate and mold young minds.
In addition to providing education, families count on teachers to help care for their kids while parents are away at work or attending other obligations. Teachers spend a lot of time with other people's children, but in California, many find themselves in a bind when it comes to bonding with their own children during a pregnancy or after giving birth.
In California, the vast majority of teachers are not offered paid family leave through state disability (SDI). General employment benefits are offered through school districts and can differ. However, if teachers want to receive disability benefits, the California Teachers Association (CTA) does offer a separate insurance provider that can be purchased by members only.
Otherwise, teachers are forced to use their sick pay benefits as maternity leave. Pregnant teachers are left to try and conserve their sick leave to use for right before and after childbirth.
California teachers receive 10 days of accrued paid sick leave a year, according to Jacob Rukeyser, legal director of the CTA.
If a teacher were relatively new, or had experienced an unhealthy year, there would be few options for taking a longer period of time off during a difficult pregnancy or to bond with a newborn.
Under the California Education Code, if a teacher were to use up all their sick leave, and continue to be absent from the job after five months, their salary is used to pay a substitute teacher. If there is money leftover from the substitute teacher pay, it goes to the absent teacher. This is known as differential pay.
Rukeyser explained, one of the main reasons why SDI isn't offered in the education system is because of the high tax costs to employees.
However, this may soon change.
Assembly Bill 568, received final legislative approval Monday and is now waiting on Gov. Jerry Brown's signature.
AB 568 would require school districts, charter schools and community colleges to provide at least six weeks of full paid leave for pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, and recovery. The bill "would authorize the paid leave to begin before and continue after childbirth, provided that the employee is actually disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition."
"This would provide peace of mind for the expectant mother without worrying about running down sick leave and without loss of pay," said Rukeyser.
He explained, the measure could aid with the current teacher shortage the state is experiencing and help attract more educators.
Rukeyer also told ABC10 the move can serve as an investment in the California education system and ultimately as an investment in healthy teachers through healthy teachers.