Photo Credit: Nicole Honeywill/Unsplash

California Teacher Forced to Pay for Substitute While Battling Cancer

A second grade teacher in San Francisco is struggling with breast cancer, having to take a leave of absence from her classroom in order to undergo and recover from treatment. But the teacher has had to resort to paying for her own class’ substitute teacher out her salary during her time off. Her peers and her students’ parents are understandably saddened and outraged at what they see as a grave injustice.

Parent Narciso Flores-Diaz told NBC Bay Area that she felt “sad that from what I hear she is a very good teacher and I just feel sad what’s going on to her.” Amanda Fried said she and other parents were “outraged and incredulous — like, this can’t be, there must be some mistake.” Speaking to the media, fellow teachers at Glen Park Elementary say this predicament is hardly surprising, explaining that they are accustomed to poor treatment.

In California, a law passed in 1976 dictates that public school teachers are not only exempt from the state’s disability program, but are entitled to only 10 days of paid medical absence — beyond that, an ill teacher may take 100 days off but only if they foot the bill for their substitute during those days. In this case, that comes to roughly $200 per day in San Francisco.

The teacher’s name has been withheld out of respect for her and her family’s privacy.

In a heartening turn of events, once word got out, parents outraged by the teacher’s predicament launched a GoFundMe campaign which ended after raising $13,000 to cover substitute costs and other expenses related to medical treatment.

Earlier this year, I reported for Care2 on a statement from GoFundMe that found that roughly 1-in-3 fundraising campaigns on the website were created to support Americans struggling to pay their medical expenses.

On average, public teachers make $82,000 yearly in San Francisco, where the cost of living is notoriously high.

United Educators of San Francisco, the local public teachers’ union, says that addressing this controversial sick leave mandate will be a major priority when contract negotiations take place next year. California State Senator Connie Levya says that after she heard about the elementary school teacher’s situation that she will be looking at pushing her fellow lawmakers to amend the law, explaining that “times have changed and it’s our job to change with the times.”

It is a sad state of affairs when an individual with one of the most important professions in the country — educating the next generation of Americans — can fall ill with a horrible disease like breast cancer and be penalized for taking the necessary time to treat it. It is simply stunning that this has been the law for over 40 years, and that, until now, no one has batted an eye at it.

This article was originally published on on May 20, 2019.

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