GOP bill would give Kentucky teachers 20 days of maternity leave Skip to content

GOP bill would give Kentucky teachers 20 days of maternity leave

Unlike most other professionals, Kentucky teachers do not get paid maternity leave. This bill would remedy that.

Photo by Aditya Romansa / Unsplash

If a Republican-backed bill passes, Kentucky public school teachers would gain maternity leave, something not currently available to them.

Senate Bill 205, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, of Smithfield, would provide 20 days of maternity leave to  public school employees after giving birth. Under the bill, employees could  begin to use sick leave after the maternity leave has ended. Any unused maternity leave could not be transferred into sick leave.

Tichenor said she did not realize that teachers lacked paid maternity leave until it came to her attention through her daughter-in-law, who is a teacher, and through recent discussions on teachers’ sick leave. Senate Bill 4, which recently passed out of the Senate, would limit how much compensation retiring teachers could receive for accrued sick days.

Nearly 80% of Kentucky school teachers are women. Tichenor said younger women who are educators and start their own families dedicate themselves to bettering the lives of all children and should have time for their own.

“So in that time of life, when they are giving birth to a baby, they should be able to afford to stay home for that length of time to recover and bond with their baby,” she said. 

Jessica Hiler, president of the Fayette County Education Association, said during her testimony against Senate Bill 4 that she used her sick leave early on in her career as maternity leave or to care for her children, which is common practice for Kentucky teachers. In her view, Tichenor’s bill would be “quite a huge change for teachers” and a welcomed one. 

Under the current system, teachers who are beginning to start their families early on in their careers face challenges if they have fewer accrued sick days, Hiler said. Teachers must also decide how to use sick time to go to prenatal appointments. 

She added that she thought Tichenor’s bill could go further but it is a “great start.” 

“If you think about it, 20 days is really five weeks of work for the most part,” Hiler said. “And most of the time after giving birth, doctors typically want you to be out at least six weeks, sometimes eight weeks, depending on what kind of delivery or complications you might have.” 

Hiler also said the General Assembly should consider adding paternity leave for parents who do not give birth to bond with their child as well and help their partners heal. 

However, Tichenor said she wasn’t supportive of paid paternity leave. She said her bill is specifically for mothers who are recovering from birth and adjusting to life with their new child. Maternity leave could be a benefit to draw new teachers into the profession, she added. 

“I think this is specific towards a mother and the process her body goes through in order to bring a life into the world and making sure that she has that time with that newborn.” 

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee and has gained three other Republican co-sponsors. Tichenor said a few minute details may be changed in a committee substitute version of the bill, but so far she’s had broad support. 

Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell said in a statement that KEA “supports paid maternity leave for educators and has strongly advocated for it in Frankfort.”

“Paid maternity leave is a common benefit for professionals in the private sector,” he said. “Our educators are professionals, and a paid benefit like maternity leave is a positive step forward to competing with the private sector. It illustrates that Kentucky values and respects the work our public school educators do.” 

Campbell added that paid maternity leave “is vital to ensuring Kentucky recruits and retains quality educators” and that lawmakers should “promote more benefits like paid maternity leave — legislation that values educators and provides a tangible benefit to their profession, and also demonstrates that our teachers are valued, respected, and essential to the success of our children and our commonwealth.”

Tichenor views her legislation as a companion to Senate Bill 4. She also said Sen. Amanda Mays Bledose (R-Lexington) has filed a similar bill that would give parental leave to state workers, Senate Bill 142.

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Written by McKenna Horsley. Cross-posted from the Kentucky Lantern.



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Kentucky Lantern

The Kentucky Lantern is an independent, nonpartisan, free news service. We’re based in Frankfort a short walk from the Capitol, but all of Kentucky is our beat.

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