State Board of Education reviews parental paid leave proposal for K-12 employees

By: - July 7, 2023 9:00 am
a pregnant woman holds photo of an ultrasound

North Carolina state employees now have access to paid parental leave in several circumstances. Photo: Getty Images

Public school teachers and other K-12 employees are now eligible for paid parental leave under a new state law.

In May, the General Assembly approved paid parental leave for all state employees, including those employed by the UNC System, K-12 public schools and community colleges. The legislation was wrapped in Senate Bill 20, which restricts abortions to 12 weeks.

The paid leave law went into effect July 1. NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) officials are preparing rules and policies that the State Board of Education (SBE) will consider next month. The board must adopt rules and policies for paid leave that are “substantially similar” to those adopted by the State Human Resources Commission for other state employees.

The legislation extends leave paid leave to the parent of a newborn biological child, a newly placed adopted child or foster child and legally placed children under 18.

Click here to see NCDPI’s parental leave manual.

The law provides for up to eight weeks of parental leave after the birth of a child and up to four weeks for other qualifying events such as paternity leave, adoption, fostering a child or becoming a legal guardian. Part-time permanent state employees are eligible for up to four weeks of paid leave after giving birth and two weeks for another qualifying event.

Paid parental leave is only available to eligible employees for a child born on or after July 1, 2023, regardless of date of adoption or legal placement.

“So, what you’re going to see is some folks whose adoptions are finalized for a child who was born before July 1, this would not be applicable to them,” said Allison Schafer, general counsel for the state board.

Tom Tomberlin, senior director of NCDPI’s Office of Education Preparation and Teacher Licensure, said it will be important to emphasize that the birth of a child triggers the paid leave and not the placement of a child.

“It will inevitably cause some angst among some of our employees if they adopt a child on August 1 and the child was born in June, they will not be eligible for this leave,” Tomberlin said.

Parents may take paid leave without exhausting sick and vacation leave. The leave is in addition to other leave authorized by state or federal law. Employees may use annual leave, personal leave or take leave without pay to care for a newborn child or a child placed for adoption or foster care.

“This allows parents more paid time off where they might have taken leave without pay,” Schafer said.

The General Assembly also appropriated $10 million in recurring funds to help NCDPI pay for parental leaves. The money will be used to pay for substitute teachers.

“This is the only agency [NCDPI] that receives additional funding for this benefit,” Schafer said.

A “technical corrections” bill is pending in the General Assembly would further clarify that the parental leave legislation:

  • Extends parental leave eligibility to probationary and time-limited employees,
  • Allows the State Human Resources Commission (and by extension the state board) to adopt rules providing leave follow miscarriages or stillbirths,
  • Exempts charter schools from providing paid parental leave unless they opt in, and
  • Specifies that charter schools will only be eligible for a share of the $10 million for substitute teachers if they provide parental leave.

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.