Credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Gov. Gavin Newsom at his state budget presentation in January.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday vetoed a bill that would have given California K-12 and community college teachers and other school employees at least six weeks of fully paid maternity leave, saying it would be too costly for school districts and community colleges.

“Providing every California worker with paid family leave is a noble goal and a priority for my administration,” Newsom said in his veto message. “However, this bill will likely result in annual costs of tens of millions of dollars and should be considered as part of the annual budget process and as part of local collective bargaining.”

Assembly Bill 500 would have required all school districts, charter schools and community colleges to provide at least six weeks of paid leave for teachers, other academic employees and classified employees for pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth and recovery. The length of the leave would have been determined by the woman’s physician. 

Currently, teachers are exempt from paying into or benefiting from state disability insurance. They can take unpaid maternity leave, but most use vacation and sick time if they want a paid leave. After their sick time is used up they can earn differential pay — the remainder of their salary after the district pays for a substitute for their class — for up to five months while on maternity leave.

A Department of Finance analysis said that it would cost between $20 million and $48 million annually if 1 percent of California teachers took the paid leave. The cost of substitutes would be an additional $13 million to $24 million a year.

Newsom said the issue could be considered by the Paid Family Leave Task Force, which is assessing increased family leave for all California workers.

“This bill isn’t about paid family leave as the veto message mistakenly says,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, author of the bill. “It’s about the medical condition of pregnancy and maternity leave. Teachers and school employees, who are overwhelmingly women, need to be protected like private sector workers. We aren’t done fighting for this. We have to address the inequity eventually.” 

Supporters of the bill, including employee unions, have said that the lack of this benefit is one reason that the state’s school districts are having trouble recruiting teachers.

It’s unfortunate the governor chose to veto such an important bill that would have allowed educators and support professionals at least six weeks of paid leave to care for their newborn child and recover from childbirth or miscarriage,” said Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association.

“These are precious moments for a parent and yet most educators in California do not have the peace of mind knowing they will be paid during this time,” she said. “Equally concerning is the fact that the current practice discriminates against women as they are required to deplete their leave balances in order to bear children. We appreciate Assembly member Gonzalez for her leadership on this important bill and will continue to work with her and other lawmakers to end this unfair practice and right this wrong.”

Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year saying that leave policies for school employees are best resolved through the collective bargaining process at the local level. 

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  1. Shirley Stowers 1 month ago1 month ago

    Newborns are children at a most critical stage of physical, mental, social, and emotional growth. This veto invalidates everything that the governor has said about his support of early childhood education. In addition, it invalidates his espoused support of teachers. It definitely shows a lack of respect for women with clear discrimination against females. The governor ‘talks the talk’ but this veto shows that he does not ‘walk the walk’.