California public school employees would be fully paid for at least six weeks during their maternity leave under a bill moving through the California Legislature.
In a move that would apply to those working for school districts and community colleges, pregnant certificated, academic and classified employees would not need to spend their accrued leave to compensate for those days. The measure passed the state Assembly on Monday and will next be considered in the state Senate.
“It is very hard on your personal life if you are pregnant and have to dip into personal savings,” said John Vigna, spokesperson for the author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego. “If you are a woman and you want to be a teacher, you shouldn’t have to take a hit when you are pregnant.”
Why school employees? Current teacher shortages in California have led school districts to offer subsidized housing or signing bonuses to lure them. Advocates say the bill would help attract school employees and keep them in the workforce.
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“It’s a tough time right now, and anything we can do to support women and family in the profession is a good thing,” said Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association. “This bill will be an incentive for young people to come into this profession.”
Like California state workers, many school workers are entitled to use their remaining sick time to be paid during their job-protected maternity leave. Once the accrued leave is exhausted, they are eligible for differential pay for the remainder of the childbirth absence. If the bill became law, school districts would be solely responsible for paying extra wages to their pregnant employees without additional help from the state government.
Those opposed consider the bill a financial burden to school districts already operating with tight budgets. The California Association of School Business Officials agrees with the author’s intent but says the state should participate in funding the estimated costs.
“The teacher shortage stems from the perception that working for a school district is not a stable work environment,” said Molly McGee Hewitt, president of CASBO. “Schools need funding stability at the state level, with less constraints to school financing, in order to avoid sending layoff notices.”
Sacramento-area school district officials said they didn’t anticipate that costs to districts would be large. They said they already bear some costs for maternity leaves by complying with the Family Medical Leave Act and California Family Rights Act.
“It’s hard to predict the impact of the bill because we don’t know what amendments it would take at the state Senate,” said Maria Lopez, spokesperson for Sacramento City Unified School District. “This doesn’t seem like it would cost us enormously, but there are two big ‘if’s before we can have a firm sense.”
About 50 female employees among a total of 8,000 employees leave work due to pregnancy in the Sacramento City Unified School District every year, and the impact should be minimal enough to handle adjustments, Lopez said.
The bill’s passage also would mean changes at California community colleges. Los Rios Community College District, which controls American River College, Cosumnes River College, Folsom Lake College and Sacramento City College, currently allows its employees about 18 weeks of maternity leave and requires them to use accrued leave for payment.
“We’ve been working in a direction of providing leave to faculty and staff in various forms, but when you look it, national support for paid pregnancy leave has been growing,” said Austin Webster, spokesperson for Faculty Association of California Community Colleges. “The vast majority of faculty are part time, so I don’t expect some mass amount of time and money being taken off due to pregnancies.”
According to the Community College League of California, however, the bill could hurt some California community college district budgets. State community colleges often aren’t prioritized for funding, and “permissive language” is needed for the districts to adequately serve their students, said Larry Galizio, the league’s president.
“We recognize the importance of the needed time to recover and bond for the child, that’s granted,” Galizio said. “Degree of flexibility is extremely important so that community colleges can collectively bargain at the local level.”
The United States is one of a few countries out of 193 countries in the United Nations that do not have a national paid parental leave law, according to an analysis by the World Policy Analysis Center at University of California Los Angeles. President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, proposed a paid leave program for all workers as part of the budget plan that Trump released Tuesday.