How Schools can Recruit and Retain Great Teachers, Part I: Give Educators 6-12 Months of Paid Parental Leave

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

– Matthew 9:14 NIV

Schools across the country are having a hard time recruiting and retaining great educators. As with many industries, pensions are being cut or reduced, insurance premiums are going up, and teachers, more than ever, are seeing an increase in responsibilities with less than desirable salaries.

Even though teachers are not in the profession for the money, they are seeing benefits decline every year. It is no wonder why new educators are questioning whether they should teach, and why veteran teachers are leaving the profession.

There are some ways in which we can help to retain and recruit great educators. This week, we will look at why schools should offer paid parental leave to their teachers.

Our Current Reality Regarding Parental Leave

Compared to other developed nations, the United States does not have laws in place for mandatory paid parental leave. States allow parents for file for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which gives new parents the opportunity to be at home with their baby for 12 weeks without pay. There are many companies and K-12 school systems out there that pay 60% of a teacher’s salary for that 12 weeks. Father’s typically do not get any paid time off and have to use their sick time to cover any time they want to spend at home.

Teachers who want to be paid their full salary for that time must pull together sick time to make up the difference. The problem is that most new educators that are in their first years of teaching do not have that much sick time built up yet, so they are forced to come back to work. Not to mention a new teacher’s salary is typically at base pay.

The average age of teachers in the United States is 42 years old. The majority of educators in the US are female, which means that most of the K-12 workforce is within childbearing age. I cannot imagine coming back to work after 12 weeks of little to no sleep, trying to set up daycare for an infant, stressing out over lesson plans, and feeling guilty that I was not with my newborn.

If school districts offer at least a 6 month paid parental leave, educators in my opinion would be more willing to continue teaching rather than trying to go part-time or stay at home after they have their child. This would also be a draw for new teachers who need the financial stability as they start their families and new careers. We owe this to the ones who take care of our students each day.

Benefits of Paid Parental Leave

Vast research has shown us that paid parental leave improves health for our children, lowers the risks of post-partum depression, allows mothers to breastfeed longer, and fathers and mothers can spend more time bonding with their child.

Teachers who have ample paid time off would come back ready to teach rather than constantly worrying about their own infant children. Teachers might also feel resentful to their district for having to come back early, whereas they may feel gratitude that their district values the time well spent with their newborn.

Teacher’s along with other parents have plenty to worry about when they bring a new child into the world. Businesses and school districts alike need to provide these benefits to parents. Parents should be able to focus on raising their young children rather than worry about their jobs. Giving parents these benefits will be a long-term investment to the school district.

Why It’s A Long-Term Investment for School Districts

Districts pour a lot of time and money into new hires. They hope that teachers stick around for many years and develop long-lasting relationships with the community as well as becoming master teachers in their craft. Other benefits for school districts include:

  • Increase in teacher job satisfaction– Teacher’s who are forced to come back early from maternity leave are more likely to be resentful to their employers.
  • Improve recruitment of high quality educators- New teachers will flock to your school district for this benefit. They want to teach and have a family and they do not want to have to choose between the two.
  • Lower turnover rate of educators– Teachers will stay longer and improve their craft over time to help improve student achievement.
  • Willingness to volunteer for the district- Educators will feel a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be at home with their child. They will be willing to give back in any way they can.
  • Supports a healthy work-life balance– These benefits show that the district supports a healthy work-life. This step makes a educators and their families a priority.

School districts and other businesses across the US owe it to their employees to be able to spend the 6-12 months at home with their child without a financial penalty. These first few months are crucial for child development and gives parents something that they will never get back-time with their newborns.

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