Isn’t it ironic when a teacher has a baby, and only after 12 weeks, she must return to work to teach other people’s children? Where is the logic in that? Because of the lack of a proper paid parental leave policy, women are returning to work when their newborns are still so young… some breastfeeding, waking up several times a night, and still requiring the loving care of a parent.
For teachers, it seems strange to be leaving a newborn with someone else to care for others’ kids.
Emily James a high school teacher in Brooklyn, New York, will go to work despite being sick, because she used more than a dozen sick days so she could take time off after she gave birth to her two girls. So, when she was actually sick, she had to go to work.
"The kids said to me so many times, 'Miss, why don't you just go home?' And I had to explain to them, 'I can't,' " James told CNN. In many areas of the United States, when a woman is pregnant, she's entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months after birth.
Teachers are affected perhaps more than other careers because they are underpaid; in 2015, their weekly wages were roughly 17% lower than those of comparable workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Roughly 76% of public school teachers are women.
As a comparison, in Canada, depending on the length of employment history and the hours worked, new mothers can take between 17 and 52 weeks of leave from their jobs paid at 55 percent of the parent's average weekly insurable wage, up to a maximum of $485 per week.
In Sweden, parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted, paid at about 80 percent of their salary.
Teachers end up racking up sick days for years on end and then use them all up after they give birth, since their maternity leave is unpaid and short. They combine these days with vacation days as well, and sometimes even resort to asking other teachers to donate days to them.
It’s no wonder teachers are exhausted and financially stressed. They don’t have much choice but to still go to school and teach even when they’re sick, their children are sick, or soon after giving birth.
Recently, New York City implemented a policy giving public school teachers six weeks of paid parental leave. New York state offers eight weeks paid parental leave. California offers its state employees six weeks of paid parental leave. New Jersey's program offers six weeks of paid leave, but employees are paid only two-thirds of their normal paychecks. Austin, Texas, and Pittsburgh also offers its teachers six weeks of paid parental leave.
Wouldn’t it be nice for all states to implement the same paid parental leave policy across the board?