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Sick Teachers In California Have To Pay For Substitutes Out Of Their Own Paychecks โ€” Even If They Have Cancer

The policy gained national attention after a second-grade teacher in San Francisco had to pay for her own sub while she was being treated for cancer.

Posted on May 9, 2019, at 11:01 a.m. ET

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If you're a teacher in California who needs to go on extended sick leave, you have more than your medical bills to worry about โ€” you'll need to foot the bill for a sub, too.

The policy, which was introduced back in 1976, garnered national attention this week after the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a second-grade teacher who has breast cancer and will be out for the rest of the year is required to pay for a substitute out of her paycheck.

The teacher, who is not being named in order to protect her privacy, works at Glen Park Elementary School in San Francisco.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for the school district stressed that this is not a district policy โ€” it's a state one.

"This is not unique to San Francisco," spokesperson Laura Dudnick said. "It is in the [Education] Code. This is not a district-only rule."

In California, teachers cannot draw benefits from the state disability insurance program because they don't pay into it. Instead, they're allotted 10 sick days per year, after which they have an additional 100 days for extended sick leave, according to the California Education Code. It's during this extended leave that the cost of the substitute teacher is deducted from their salary.

"So they are receiving paid sick leave during these 100 days; itโ€™s just the amount is based on the teacherโ€™s day rate minus the substitute cost," Dudnick said.

According to the Chronicle, the price of a substitute can be up to $240 per day โ€” all of which is deducted from the sick teacher's salary.

If sick leave is required beyond that, teachers can draw up to 85 days from a catastrophic-sick-leave bank, organized by the union and school district, in which other teachers "donate" their unused sick leave for their colleagues in need. This pay isn't cut to subsidize the subs.

In order to help the Glen Park Elementary teacher cover the cost of her substitute, members of the community raised money through GoFundMe. The campaign, which is now closed, sought to raise $10,000 to cover the cost of the sub, medical expenses, and lost income. In the end, they raised more than $13,000.

The teacher was described on the GoFundMe as "a true professional who is dedicated to her craft" and whose "dedication and love for her students canโ€™t be understated."

"Just a few days after her surgery, she took the time to write out 22 completely personalized notes to the students in the class thanking them for their support, telling them she missed them dearly and encouraging them to continue working hard," the campaign said.

Amanda Fried, a mother of two students at the school, told the Chronicle that parents are "outraged and incredulous" at the policy and want it changed.

"This canโ€™t be,โ€ she said. "There must be some mistake.โ€

But Fried said some teachers seem resigned to the policy.

โ€œThe teachers have sort of shrugged โ€” like, yes, thatโ€™s how it is,โ€ she said. โ€œThat makes it even more sad, because teachers expect to be treated poorly.โ€

Susan Solomon, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, told BuzzFeed News in an emailed statement that her group is consulting with members on whether sick leave policies will be part of "their priorities for contract negotiations," which are set for next year.

"As always, we look forward to making improvements in this and other parts of the contract," said Solomon.

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