A new California Senate bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Connie Leyva would require school districts to fully compensate teachers for extended sick leave.
Senate Bill 796 would undo a 40-year-old law that reduces teachers' compensation while they are on extended sick leave to pay for their substitutes. If passed, the legislation would shift the financial responsibility for long-term substitutes from teachers to districts.
SB 796 will be considered in committee later this spring.
According to California state law, full-time public school teachers earn 10 paid sick leave days each year. After using paid leave, they may be placed on extended sick leave for up to five months during which time their pay is reduced.
The law could be affecting certain teachers more than others, according to lawmakers. "Early-career employees that do not have a large amount of leave stored are more likely to feel the potentially devastating impact of the current policy," Levya said in a press release.
In addition, female employees that have used up their leave during or after pregnancy are "far more likely to exhaust what little sick leave they may have remaining," and could be more likely to utilize extended leave during which time their pay is cut.
The current California policy is similar Oklahoma's, which offers 10 sick days per school year that also can be rolled over to the next year. Once those days are exhausted, the state adds 20 days of sick time, but takes the sub's cost out of the teacher's paycheck. Pasadena, Texas, and Davis, Utah, have similar policies.
Spending their own money to pay for subs is just the tip of the out-of-pocket expense iceberg for teachers. They also spend about $500 annually on supplies, according to a report by Business Insider.
To defray the costs, some educators are turning to social media for help and triggering a social movement in the process. In fact, the bill in the California Senate was spurred by a public school teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District, where parents began a GoFundMe donation page to raise money for her while she underwent breast cancer treatment. A spokesperson for GoFundMe told Business Insider that education is the fundraising site's fastest growing category.
In another example, the Facebook group Support A Teacher draws attention to the challenges teachers face when trying to acquire basic supplies for their classrooms. The Twitter hashtag #clearthelists is also giving the movement steam.
With teacher shortages and compensation still a top concern for districts, increased salaries and comprehensive benefits, which could mean making sick leave policies more longer and flexible, are ways that can make the profession more attractive to prospective candidates.