Teachers Promote Bill to Guarantee Maternity-Related Leave

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Most of California's 300,000 teachers are not part of the state disability insurance system, and do not receive automatic paid maternity leave. Photo Credit: Pixabay

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Teachers are speaking out in favor of a bill that would grant them and other classified employees six weeks of paid time off for pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth and recovery.

Many of these educators have to use their sick time because they don’t pay into the state disability insurance fund, and thus don’t benefit from it.

Charity Berg Garcia, a second-grade teacher in Watsonville, says the first few weeks of bonding with a newborn is crucial.

“If we’re educating kids to make them productive members of society, we also need to be able to invest in our own children and not neglect them,” she states.

Opponents of the bill say it could cost the state tens of millions of dollars.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has supported extending maternity leave in the private sector as part of his pro-parents agenda, so supporters are hopeful that he will approve this bill before the signing deadline this Sunday.

Katie Serbian, a counselor and professor with the San Diego Community College District, says the current policy is part of the reason for the state’s teacher shortage.

“That affects the quality of people that are going to be attracted to the profession,” she states. “The ability to retain quality teachers will be affected by this pretty abysmal maternity leave policy.”

Natalie Bennetts, a middle school teacher from Morgan Hill, says a lot of women try to time their child’s birth for the summer but it’s not foolproof.

She says many new mothers use up all their paid leave for the baby and then can’t afford to stay home if they don’t feel well.

“Coming back to work absolutely exhausted, you’re going to bring home a bunch of illnesses being around a classroom of sick kids,” she states. “And your kids are going to get sick. And to have that burden of having to show up for work every day – sick or not – is really, really difficult.”

This year, Assembly Bill 500 received near unanimous bipartisan support in the state Legislature. Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, introduced the bill at the behest of the California Federation of Teachers. Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, saying the issue should be addressed through collective bargaining.