I am a public school teacher, and my family has faced hardship because of a lack of paid family and medical leave – but I do not believe that an employer mandate is a solution to this need.
I had my son, Olly, in 2017 after a difficult pregnancy and a healthy birth. I was eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave but I could only afford to take six weeks. When I came back to work, I had to take unpaid breaks to pump/feed my son. There was no support to cover my classroom when I did so. There was also not an available space to do any of this. My mother, a retired teacher, came in to substitute for free so that I could continue breastfeeding my son.
I am not alone in my experience of schools being unfriendly to the family and medical needs of teachers. Younger women are sometimes given shorter teaching contracts because of employers’ belief that they will have children. If this version of paid family and medical leave is implemented, I believe there will be further discrimination against women and anyone perceived as being likely to take leave because employers will not want to pay. A social insurance program alleviates this concern because of how affordable it is for both workers and employers.
The FAMLI Coalition has been advocating for a social insurance program because it will give the workers who need it most access to paid family and medical leave, independent of their employer. A social insurance model is affordable for local governments and is also the most accessible to workers if their governing body opts out. Under the current proposal, public school teachers and other local municipality workers could be effectively denied if they cannot afford the insurance on their own. I need paid family and medical leave, but going through my employer or an insurance company is not how I want to access it.
This for-profit proposal is not the answer. By creating this mandate, you would be asking insurance companies to come in and start profiting, while opening up many workers to further discrimination.
Mary Kathryn Dillaman,
Colorado Public School Teacher