California teacher fighting breast cancer asked to pay for substitute teacher out of her salary while on medical leave

A decades-old California law dictates that any teacher in the state that takes medical leaves beyond the ones they have in a year will have to pay for the teacher that is replacing them

                            California teacher fighting breast cancer asked to pay for substitute teacher out of her salary while on medical leave
(Source : Getty Images)

A San Francisco teacher who is on medical leave because of her battle with breast cancer will have to not just worry about her hospital bills, but also potentially footing the bill for the substitute teacher who will be taking over her second-grade class.

According to CNN, the teacher, who works at the Glen Park Elementary School in the San Francisco United School District, can just receive up to 10 days of paid medical leave a year. She can avail a further 100 sick days but will see the cost for the substitute teacher hired in her place deducted from her salary.

The rule is in place because of what is an admittedly archaic 1976 California law which states that when a teacher has exhausted all available sick leaves for a given year and continues to be absent for an additional period of five months, the sum paid to the substitute teacher will be withdrawn from the absentee's salary. And because teachers in the state don't pay into the state's disability program, they can't access its benefits either.

San Francisco United School District spokeswoman Laura Dudnick revealed that the average daily cost of a substitute teacher in the city was $203.16. In comparison, the average teacher salary in the district, excluding benefits, is $82,024 a year, of which over $20,000 would be deducted over an absence of five months. 

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

However, drastic cases such as this one are usually avoided because teachers who require additional medical leave can draw from a Sick Leave Bank for up to 85 days without seeing any deduction from their paychecks. Teachers usually donate their unused sick leaves to this bank to help out their colleagues who are in need.

Speaking to KABC, Elia Hernandez, whose child goes to the school and was taught by the teacher, said, "She's an incredible teacher and that's not fair. That's crazy!" with another parent Abby Hipps similarly saying, "She's wonderful, she's a beautiful lovely great teacher. She's one of the best teachers. It's terrible."

Eric Heins, who is the president of the California Teachers Association, said a change to the current system has been hard to come by because of a lack of funds. "We'd love to change it but we're working under a public school system that's been financially on starvation," he revealed.

Susan Solomon, the president of United Educators of San Francisco, told CNN her union was hoping to negotiate better sick leave policies next year. "The issues involving teachers' use of extended sick leave and the catastrophic sick leave bank, as well as the school district's use of a daily substitute dock rate, are governed by law and the collective bargaining agreement," she said in a statement. "UESF is consulting with our members on their priorities for contract negotiations next year. As always, we look forward to making improvements in this and other parts of the contract."