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Guest comment: Fixed record on paid family leave for teachers

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By Joseph DiPasquale

Joseph DiPasquale is Delaware’s nonpartisan candidate for state representative in the 41st district. He resides in Millsboro.

Recently, my opponent in the 41st District, Republican Rep. Rich Collins, criticized Delaware teachers for taking 12 weeks of paid family leave when giving birth or adopting a child. child (“Wisdom of paid family leave questioned,” August 5). Calling it a “financial incentive for teachers to stay home,” he twists the statistics, ostensibly to arouse “concern (that) paid family leave is further handicapping Delaware students who were already disadvantaged after nearly two years of forced distance learning. ”

For example, Rep. Collins treats the 1,184 “school workers” in his discussion of lost instruction time as if they were all teachers. That’s wrong: Delaware’s 9,900 teachers represent less than 52% of public school employees eligible for paid family leave. If all ‘school workers’ and ‘state employees’ take paid family leave at the same rate (an assumption he makes), then only 616 teachers took leave in the fiscal year 2021, i.e. a fraction greater than 6.5%.

Did these new parents cause a significant increase in wasted instructional time? It is prohibitively unlikely. Why? Because Delaware state employees can already bank paid sick leave and take advantage of unpaid time under the federal family medical leave law. In other words, many Delaware teachers already had the potential ability to take those 12 weeks without paid family leave. There is no evidence that the existence of paid family leave for teachers has significantly increased lost teaching hours.

What paid family leave has done is eliminate the specter of financial hardship that causes many women to continue working too late into their third trimester or return to work too soon after giving birth. Current research suggests that pregnancy typically requires four to 16 weeks off work, depending on age and the flexibility of the employment situation.

Often young teachers who have not worked long enough to accumulate substantial sick leave; those susceptible to complications such as gestational diabetes or cervical incompetence; or those who give birth to premature or disabled babies risk missing out on paid sick leave altogether. Their families are placed in the position of deciding between health risks and unsustainable loss of income, and so many may never be able to return to their classrooms.

It is adding insult to injury to characterize these teachers by innuendo as being pedagogically “inferior” and making excuses to “stay at home”, seemingly indifferent to the fact that they are inflicting “stress increased to employees without children.

The legitimate question regarding paid family leave for state and school district employees is how we pay for it, which has obvious answers.

Delaware could have generated more than enough funding to guarantee paid family leave by legalizing cannabis and taxing its sale, as many other states have done. To their credit, a large majority in the General Assembly voted for it, but Governor John Carney and Rep. Collins, in a bizarre display of negative bipartisanship, united to scuttle it.

The overall tone of Representative Collins’ article is tinged with unintended irony. In other forums, he argued that abortion should be banned because American women “just don’t have enough babies” and we “remove” fetuses “before they have the chance to become those people we need to support”. we.”

Nor does it dispute the state’s assertion that “newborns of mothers on paid leave were more likely to be breastfed, receive medical exams, and receive essential vaccinations” and “ increased the likelihood that women would return to work after childbirth.

As an “average Joe,” I struggle to demand a commitment to having more babies, while arguing against allowing them to receive the best pre and postnatal care.

I’m also deeply skeptical that, if you really think most teachers are mediocre failures, you think forcing them back into the classroom as soon as possible after giving birth will improve academic outcomes.

We have a teacher crisis: Too many of the best are leaving the profession because of appalling working conditions, politicized ‘accountability’ measures and politicians who believe students will get better at math and reading if we need cameras in the classrooms, while making them pass a course on “the evils of communism”.

Paid family leave for teachers is one of the few positive steps the General Assembly has taken to stem the bleeding, while treating them as if their health and that of their children matter.

We need to keep looking for more sensible and fiscally responsible initiatives that “average Joes” like me can understand and support.