Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Editorial: District lacks paid parental leave for teachers

Sabela Chelba

Only 27% of workers across the U.S. have access to paid maternity leave. Teachers in the Palo Alto Unified School District and across California are facing the same issue. The maternity leave laws in California are ever-changing and can be difficult to understand, leaving teachers confused and students with substitute teachers who are unqualified to teach complex subjects.

Verde believes that all teachers are entitled to paid parental leave and shouldn’t have to use sick days in order to receive compensation. 

Paid parental leave is extremely important for a multitude of reasons. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, paid maternity leave improves maternal and infant health, both physically and mentally. 

A review from the same organization found that among mothers who received paid leave, rates of being rehospitalized were 51% lower, compared to mothers who took unpaid leave or no leave at all. The rates of their infants being rehospitalized were also cut by 47%. 

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A 2019 study by Pew Research Center found that the United States was the only country out of 41 others surveyed that lacked mandated paid parental leave. Currently, PAUSD allows up to 12 weeks of child bonding leave for mothers and fathers, as mandated by California law

However, according to the collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the educator association, child bonding leave is unpaid and teachers must use accumulated sick leave in order to be compensated. The district also requires teachers to have worked there for at least a year before going on leave.

A good first step would be including a period of time where paid parental leave is exhausted before parents have to use our sick days.”

— Tatiana Martinez, Palo Alto High School educational specialist

Tatiana Martinez, an educational specialist at Palo Alto High School, has her own experiences with maternity leave, both personally and through friends and family. Martinez believes the current child bonding leave system doesn’t provide enough financial support for families, especially with high living costs in the Bay Area.

“It [system] poses a financial hardship, and it also interferes with a new parent’s ability to support your family,” Martinez said. “…Living in the Bay Area is expensive, so losing any kind of income is definitely going to pose a financial hardship.”

The current leave system requires teachers to exhaust their sick days, which build up over time, in order to receive partial pay.

In the future, Martinez would like to see the maternity leave system include some partial pay, not including sick days.

“A good first step would be including a period of time where paid parental leave is exhausted before parents have to use our sick days,” Martinez said.

According to CBS News, despite educators qualifying for 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, going on leave for extended periods can pose huge financial challenges, oftentimes forcing teachers to sacrifice their savings to spend essential time with their newborns. 

Providing paid parental leave would also be beneficial for students since teachers wouldn’t have to take multiple fragmented leaves of absence, which can make it more difficult for students to learn the material effectively and do well in class. 

Verde believes that teachers in our district are entitled to recover from any complications they may have experienced and to spend time with their children without any financial worries.