As children across the country begin to return to school, it is important to ensure that teachers and those working in schools can access the supportive work-family policies they need to keep themselves, their families, and their students safe and healthy. Teachers play a critical role in all of our communities, but as they work tirelessly to educate and support their students, they often still lack access to the workplace policies they need in order to protect their health and attend to their caregiving needs without sacrificing their economic security.
Recently, we have seen heartening momentum in the South towards ensuring educators can access the supportive policies they need. Earlier this year, Tennessee unanimously passed legislation to provide public school teachers and administrators with 6 weeks of paid parental leave for birth, adoption, or after the stillbirth of a child. This policy will serve as a lifeline for countless educators and families in the state, while also helping local school districts be more competitive in recruiting and retaining employees. Also this year, South Carolina approved a bill with unanimous support to provide public school educators with up to 6 weeks of paid parental leave to care for a new child. North Carolina also extended their existing paid parental leave policy for state government employees to cover public school educators.
Teachers nationwide also now have new rights to access the accommodations they need in order to pump breast milk on the job thanks to the federal PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which took effect earlier this year. The PUMP Act almost entirely closes the coverage gap that previously left 1 in 4 women of childbearing age without federal protection of their right to break time and a private space to pump during the workday, and, notably, strengthens these protections for teachers. Additionally, pregnant and postpartum workers nationwide in all industries, including education, have new workplace rights under the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which took effect in June.
We have seen tremendous progress at both the state and federal level towards ensuring that teachers can access the supportive policies they need, but there remains work to be done: We need Congress to pass the FAMILY Act and extend the right to paid family and medical leave to workers across the country. Additionally, as COVID cases once again begin to increase nationwide, workers in all states – especially those who work with children – need paid sick time, so that they can maintain their economic security without compromising their own health or that of their students and communities. Join us in calling on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act and make paid sick time a right for all workers.
Our educators work hard to teach and care for our children, and A Better Balance is committed to continuing this fight until all educators are able to care for themselves and their loved ones without sacrificing their income or savings.