Do Teachers Get Paternity Leave? The Complete Guide

Teachers, like many other professionals, are entitled to vacation days as part of their employment benefits. They typically enjoy summer days and school breaks throughout the year. While most teachers also receive sick leave and some may receive personal time off, the situation is not as straightforward when it comes to paternity leave.

So, do teachers get paternity leave? Only a few states provide teachers with paid paternity leave—New Jersey, Delaware, and Washington. Washington D.C. does so as well. Outside of that, paternity leave, much less paid paternity leave, is few and far between.

What most teachers end up doing is throwing together all of their other time off days, whether it’s sick days or personal days, to make up some semblance of paternity leave. Fortunately, most of these days are paid, so though the time is short, there is at least some compensation. 

Family Medical Leave Act

Thankfully, the Family Medical Leave Act opens the door to extended periods of paternity leave. FMLA is the law and using it provides employees with an extensive period off for medical issues, either affecting a close family member or themselves. 

The drawback is the unfortunate fact that FMLA provides no compensation whatsoever. What a lot of teachers end up doing is utilizing FMLA and throwing in all of their sick and personal days to receive some level of compensation. Or, they get a second, part-time, and far less strenuous job, if allowed. 

Extended Medical Leave

The likelihood of a teacher taking paternity leave under extended medical leave is slim and none. It’s worth bringing up because it’s only one of the very few options teachers have to take time off outside of personal and sick time. 

However, even extended medical leave comes with a caveat. Though teachers can draw pay while taking extended medical leave, the pay is reduced by the amount the school has to pay the substitute teacher as a replacement. 

Time Off is Different Depending on the State

Not every state is the same—something we briefly covered in the bold section above. Since there are only three states, along with the District of Columbia—that pay for some semblance of paternity leave, that leaves 47 states, and the vast majority of teachers who have to get innovative. 

California briefly flirted with the idea, twice, and both times legislation for parental leave made it to the governor’s desk, only to be vetoed. School districts themselves, along with the union, mounted stiff and willful resistance to the idea. 

They reason that it would cost millions to pull off. Nine states provide some sort of state-funded, parental leave but none of them, except New Jersey, Washington, and Delaware, extend that funding to teachers. 

It’s only set aside for other, state-level employees. Another one of the reasons behind the hesitancy to institute paid paternity leave, or maternity leave for that matter, is because numerous studies out there show a clear decline in student performance when a teacher is gone for more than 12 days. 

Other Determining Factors

Chronic teacher absence is a problem in the nation’s public schools. In fact, teacher absence is so prevalent that 36 states now include teacher absenteeism in their assessment of children’s progress in education. 

According to a study conducted by the Brookings Institute, 8 million students missed out on a total of fifteen days worth of in-school instruction over a single year. That was a measure gathered during the 2015 to 2016 academic year. 

Here’s the problem: when you already have chronic absenteeism as an issue that’s so bad, major institutions are launching studies, revealing data that kids are suffering in class, and paternity leave becomes a backburner topic. 

Since teaching is dominated by women, you would think maternity leave, and hence, paternity leave would be a prevalent thing. Consider this: the United States is the lone country in the world that doesn’t offer parental leave to teachers. The only country. Period. 

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Workarounds Teachers Use for Paternity Leave

We’ve touched on some of this already and several workarounds don’t make up for a paid, paternity leave policy but help when there’s nothing else. The sad fact is, most teachers simply return to work well before their bodies or their mentality are ready. 

Sick Days

One of the most effective things a teacher can do is hoard sick days and try not to use them. Of course, everyone gets sick from time to time but unless it’s completely debilitating, teachers try to minimize their time off to the best of their ability. 

Personal Days

Personal days are something teachers can lump in with their sick days to maximize their time off after bringing a child into the world. It still doesn’t add up to an adequate amount of time off for paternity but it’s better than nothing. 

FMLA

This is something not even public schools can get around. The problem is, it’s entirely unpaid. While 12 weeks sounds like a serious boon, taking the place of paternity leave, it’s not the greatest thing in the world when it’s unpaid. 

FMLA is the number one thing teachers will combine with sick days and personal days to get the maximum amount of time off while at least getting some degree of pay throughout. Remember, there are only three states and the District of Columbia that actually provide some sort of compensated paternity leave. 

Fortunately, things seem to be moving in the right direction, with paid time off for paternity or maternity leave finding its way onto the radar of state legislatures. For instance, though the measure didn’t pass in California—twice—it came within a hair, only going down to the stroke of the governor’s pen. 

Final Thoughts on Do Teachers Get Paternity Leave

For the most part, 47 of the 50 states do not offer paternity or maternity leave for teachers. Instead, teachers have to make use of what they have, which includes the FMLA, sick time off, and personal days. 

The issue is slowly but surely gaining attention, however, and there are small signs here and there that things are about to change. Hopefully, the United States will join the rest of the world in offering some sort of compensatory package for paternity leave or maternity leave in the near future. 

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