Every year, the Palo Alto Unified School District and the Palo Alto Educators Association spend hours discussing the Collective Bargaining Agreement – the legal contract negotiated between the teachers union and the District. They eventually reach a consensus on changes for the following school year.
However, because there are so many sections in the agreement, it is nearly impossible for all the articles to be opened for discussion every year, meaning that there are some articles that have been consistently neglected, including the Leave Provisions article. But finally, this year, this article will be opened for negotiations, PAEA President Teri Baldwin said.
The Campanile commends both the PAEA and district negotiators for doing so, and we encourage both sides to include language giving teachers a 10-week term of paid maternity leave after having or adopting a child, without having to use their accumulated sick days.
This Leave Provisions article outlines the basics of leave policies, including types of leaves teachers are allowed to take and the compensation guidelines that come with them.
Currently, female teachers who have a child during the school year and want to be paid for leave have to use their accumulated sick days to receive pay. Under the Pregnancy Disability Leave policy, female teachers are allowed to take six to eight weeks off. If they do not have a sufficient number of sick days, they will not get paid.
After a doctor says a person on leave is physically able to resume working, this employee may continue to use their sick days and transition to bonding leave if they want to continue their paid leave. This policy allows both male and female teachers to receive payment using any remaining sick days up to 12 additional weeks.
The current policy of using accumulated sick days for paid maternity leave comes with various downsides. First, this policy puts teachers who have been in the district for a short amount of time at a disadvantage as teachers are allotted 10 sick days each year. A younger teacher who is more likely to have a child likely has fewer accumulated sick days.
While we recognize the enforcement of a standardized paid maternity leave policy would be costly to the district. However, The Campanile thinks allocating funds towards this cause is a progressive step to helping our teachers be better parents.
Although the issue has will soon be debated on a district level, the California Senate recently approved Assembly Bill 500 which calls for required paid leave in California public school districts.
The bill, awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature, proposes a requirement for all school districts, charter schools and community colleges to provide at least six weeks of paid leave for teachers and other school district employees for pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth and recovery.
Instead of merely waiting for state law to be changed, though, The Campanile thinks the issue should be prioritized on a district level.
We are glad to see that PAUSD and PAEA will open the discussion of Article XI when negotiating contract issues this year. The introduction of paid maternity leave without the necessity of using accumulated sick days would promote equity, prevent inconsistencies and help PAUSD parents during a time when their child most needs them.