What Is Maternity Leave Like in Public Schools?

Becoming a teacher can often be a rewarding experience. One of the benefits of teaching is that it offers a lot of variety. With each new school that you teach at comes a new set of talented students who have different personalities, GPA scores, and sets of experiences.

As an educator, you can expand your students' horizons, whether it be an NSHSS review on a possible scholarship or designing a tailor-made lesson plan to spark their creative minds. But in a women-dominated profession who are often considered an ambassador to learning, why are most mother's not being given ample maternity leave, and where is the community involvement?

What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave is defined as a statutory leave of absence from employment. A pregnant teacher in the United States who works in a public school and gives birth to a child is entitled to 12 weeks of paid leave. This information seems misleading since paid maternal leave varies on a state-by-state basis, and it doesn't matter if you're teaching in a high school, middle school, or elementary. Sadly, leave for teachers is often not included in state laws. Most cities and school districts have separate programs that fund maternity leave for teachers. 

A teacher in the United States is at the will of their district no matter their qualifications including, graduate school. Whether you have tenure or are brand new out of college, teaching in a public school can come with its challenges.

Is every pregnant teacher promised maternity leave?

Even though your school may be excited and positive for your journey into motherhood and throw you a workplace baby shower that includes the gift of knowledge for the best nursing bras and the most user-friendly strollers, it still doesn't mean that you are promised paid leave. Teachers all over the United States are expected to educate the country's youth, but when it comes time for them to start their own families, they are not given much support themselves with only 12 weeks off before they are required to return to work.

For most, academic excellence is seen as a gateway to a better future. As we have learned this past year with COVID, teachers are on the front line but mostly rely on their unions to negotiate with school districts for better benefits which more often than not includes the right to paid maternity leave. Only a handful of states actually have paid family leave laws which include California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Oregon, Connecticut, and Colorado. The bottom line is that the United States does not mandate paid leave which ultimately affects teachers.

What do teachers do if they are pregnant?

The United States is far from world betterment when it comes to supporting pregnant teachers. Unlike some of the best nursing bras, educators are often let down. Most pregnant teachers have to patchwork together their sick days in order to have some paid time off with their newborns. The rest of their time turns into unpaid leave, which can often be hard since teachers are not known to be paid a considerable amount, to begin with. The result is forcing new moms to return to work before they feel physically or mentally able.

While there are so many scholarship opportunities, partner discounts, and internships for the students they teach, educators are more often than not disregarded for their hard work. In recent years, a legitimate organization has brought forth activism but there is still a long way to go before there is an equal partnership between the Department of Education and teachers.

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