WHEATLAND – Platte County School District No. 1 has just catapulted to a very desirable district to be employed by for incoming and resident educators. At the last school board meeting the board voted in a new policy – paid maternity leave.
“Six years ago, a lot of teachers in our district retired and there were lots of new teachers entering the district. Many of them have children and not much in the way of leave. Only nine days of paid leave,” explained long-time Wheatland High School teacher Susan Schomburg. “It’s 2019, women dominate the education field, why not be on the cutting edge of offering desirable benefits?”
By law, teachers are allowed twelve weeks of unpaid leave. But many teachers can’t afford to not have a paycheck while they are recovering from childbirth. Many teachers try to plan for their delivery date to fall in the summer months. There is a sick bank for teachers to store up sick days and fellow teachers may donate their own days to someone else; but those days are not permissible for maternity leave.
Proponents to the policy met with the school attorney near the beginning of last year to start working on the details and negotiating with the district. Eligible employees must have been full-time employees for at least 90 days. Maternity/paternity leave may also be used for an adoption of a child under 18-years-old. Employees may take up to twelve weeks of leave. Three weeks will be compensated at 100 percent of their regular, daily pay and an additional nine weeks of unpaid leave is available.
Schomburg went on to explain that Platte County’s tax base is narrow. The county doesn’t have the mineral wealth that most counties in Wyoming benefit from. We can’t compete with other districts based on salary alone. “Money is not the only thing. If we want quality teachers, benefits are really important to young families.”
As of now, there are eight teachers in the district that will benefit from the new policy, and there may be more as the year progresses. But Schomburg stresses that just because we happen to have a large number of pregnant teachers right now, it is not the reason the policy was created.
“I believe people that are happy in their workplace do a good job. That’s a benefit for our schools and our kids,” she said with conviction. “I think everybody in the country should have paid maternity leave. I’ll be long gone soon, but hopefully we’ll have new, great teachers coming in.”