Julie Watts InvestigatesBy Julie Watts

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California teachers are one step closer to fully-paid disability leave after having a baby. 

The disability leave would be made possible by a bill that was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown last year and reintroduced under Governor Newsom. It would provide six weeks of fully-paid leave for teachers and it unanimously passed out of the appropriations committee Thursday, just hours after a CBS13 report on the matter.

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“It’s a normal thing to do to leave and have a baby and you don’t have paid leave, you just burn through all your sick time,” said teacher Emily Price.

Like hundreds of thousands in California, including state workers, firefighters, and CHP officers, teachers are among the public employees not entitled to state disability benefits including paid family leave.

Price quickly burned through her sick and vacation pay and is now essentially paying for her substitute teacher while she continues recovering from childbirth. She said she is currently getting paid half of her normal salary.

Teachers do get differential pay after their sick leave is exhausted, but the difference between their salary and what the district pays their sub isn’t much.

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez reintroduced legislation that would require school districts to pay a teacher’s full salary for just the first six-to-eight week disability period after having a baby. Then they’d get differential pay for the remaining family leave period.


“We’re losing so many young women out of teaching, and the number one reason cited is because of family concerns,” Gonzalez said.

Districts and administrators oppose the bill, citing the cost. Other critics note most Californian’s pay a 1% disability insurance tax, entitling them to up to 70% of their pay. Under this legislation, teachers wouldn’t pay a thing.

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“I’m fine with the teachers paying if we’re gonna pay them more,” Gonzalez said.

The average teacher’s salary is around $60,000 a year, minus classroom supplies they often have to buy.

The same legislation passed last year but in a surprising blow, it was vetoed by Governor Brown who said the issue was “best resolved through the collective bargaining process at the local level.”

“I wasn’t surprised under Gov. Brown. I mean, he really was…kinda like ‘Not my problem. Go bargain for it,'” Gonzalez said.

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She argues paid family leave often gets bargained away in union negotiations that are often dominated by pay and class size.

“The challenge is someone has to pay, and other things become a higher priority,” Governor Newsom said.

Gonzales now has renewed hope under the new governor, who has made paid family leave a top priority. Though both Newsom and Gonzales acknowledge, this bill still leaves tens of thousands of other public employees uncovered.

“I’m dealing with teachers because there’s a teacher shortage,” Gonzalez said. “But even the governor’s office is like, ‘you know it’s a bigger problem’ and I said, ‘I know it is.'”

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It’s worth noting that we asked Governor Newsom if there was something he could do to fix the issue for all public employees. He said he is commissioning a working group who will be working on that.

Julie Watts