2nd Grade Teacher on Medical Leave for Breast Cancer Forced to Pay for Substitute

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
May 10, 2019 Updated: May 10, 2019

A San Francisco teacher suffering from breast cancer will be forced to pay for her substitute while she’s on medical leave, and a parent has called it “grossly unfair.”

The 2nd-grade teacher at Glen Park Elementary, whose identity hasn’t been revealed, will have the cost of her replacement deducted from her salary, reported KQED.

A parent, Amanda Kahn Fried has come out in support of the teacher. “I just can’t believe how grossly unfair it is,” said Fried.

“Can you imagine telling doctors they have to pay for their replacements? It just doesn’t make sense. That’s not the employee’s responsibility—that’s the employer’s responsibility,” she said.

The policy in the California Education Code mandating the deduction of the cost of a replacement from a sick teacher’s pay check was crafted by the legislature and the governor in the early 1970s.

Since then, KQED reports that many sick leave donation banks have been created to help teachers in such situations, but even then they have to part with whatever doesn’t get sponsored.

“This section shall be applicable whether or not the absence from duty is by reason of a leave of absence granted by the governing board of the employing district,” the law states.

The law has also caught the attention of Sen. Connie Leyva, who represents CA’s 20th State Senate District, including portions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. She’s also the head of the Senate Education committee.

“It really does seem like we need to do something to rectify this problem,” said Leyva. “Maybe what worked back then doesn’t work now, and maybe we need to reconsider that law.”

She said she’s personally hearing about the law for the first time. “I’d never heard of this until I got here to the Senate,” she told KQED.

Chuck King, a negotiator with the California Teachers Association said if the law is changed the state will have to bear the cost. “It was likely a compromise to limit the cost of a district’s liability,” he said.

“It’s kind of a raw deal if you are dealing with a catastrophic illness and then on top of that you get a tiny paycheck,” King added. “It’s always a big thing when it comes up because there is a lot of sympathy.”

Out of the total 148 districts, only 22 districts have policies that deduct the cost of a replacement from a sick teacher’s paycheck.

Teachers Give Up Sick Days for Co-Worker With Cancer

Deciding whether or not to use a paid sick day can be an incredibly difficult task for members of the workforce. Although a full day of recovery when you wake up under the weather can shorten an illness’s lifespan, saving up those days for the unexpected can seem more important.

For a group of teachers in Florida, those decisions to save their paid sick leave ended up proving invaluable when they realized a fellow teacher needed those days more than they did.

High school history teacher Robert Goodman was terrified when he was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in April 2018.

He used 38 sick days at the end of the school year while he underwent treatment, but he realized by mid-July that he was short 20 sick days to qualify for a “catastrophic leave of absence” through his school district.

Desperate, he posted a message on Facebook, asking if any teachers had any sick days to spare and directing them to the Human Resources department at Palm Beach Gardens Community High School.

Before he knew it, 75 days had been transferred to Goodman from teachers who pay into the Florida retirement system.

Epoch Times reporter Catherine Silverman contributed to this report.

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