California policy requires teachers to pay for own substitute during extended sick leave

A California policy requires teachers on extended sick leave to pay for their own substitute teachers.

A second-grade teacher at Glen Park Elementary School in San Francisco reportedly had to pay for her own substitute while she was on extended leave for breast cancer treatment. Reports this week about her story drew national attention to the policy.

Teachers in California don't pay into the state disability insurance program, so they are not able to draw its benefits.

In California, Section 44977 (a) of the Education Code states that after a teacher has exhausted all available sick leave, they can go into an extended sick leave for an additional five school months. This part of the law, crafted by the legislature and governor, was inserted into the education code in 1976.

But even if no substitute teacher were to take the place of the teacher during his or her extended sick leave, the amount that would have been paid to the substitute teacher would still be deducted from the teacher's salary.

In San Francisco, the San Francisco Unified School District and the United Educators of San Francisco negotiated a collective bargaining agreement, which details three classifications of sick days. There is also an order to how the sick days can be used, which reflects state law, said Laura Dudnick, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Unified School District.

First, teachers are allotted 10 regular sick days per year. The school district would pay for a substitute teacher during these regular sick days.

After that, teachers could take 100 days for an extended sick leave; during this time, they would be paid their regular salary, minus the cost of the substitute teacher.

"This reflects California Education Code language related to extended sick leave that applies to all other school districts in California," Dudnick said. "This is not unique to San Francisco. This is not a district-only rule."

Then, when teachers have used all of the regular and extended sick days, they are then eligible to become a member of the Catastrophic Sick Leave Bank, to which members donate sick days.

Teachers can draw up to 85 days in any school year from the sick leave bank, according to the collective bargaining agreement.

Teachers also receive their full pay when using the Catastrophic Sick Leave Bank, and the district would then pay the cost of a substitute.

The average daily cost of a substitute in San Francisco is $203.16, Dudnick said.

Susan Solomon is president of the United Educators of San Francisco. She said the issues involving teachers' use of extended sick leave and the Catastrophic Sick Leave Bank are governed by law and the collective bargaining agreement.

"UESF is consulting with our members on their priorities for contract negotiations next year," Solomon said in a statement. "As always, we look forward to making improvements in this and other parts of the contract."

A GoFundMe account raised more than $13,000 to help the Glen Park Elementary School teacher subsidize her substitute. The campaign will be taken down to protect her privacy.

She was described as an "impeccable teacher" who has taught at the elementary school for 17 years.

"Her dedication and love for her students can't be understated," the campaign post said, adding that she would not be returning this academic year.

Glen Park Elementary School did not immediately respond for comment on the teachers' sick leave policy.

This story was reported in Los Angeles.