Parents help raise money for beloved San Francisco teacher on sick leave

Parents help raise money for beloved San Francisco teacher on sick leave (ABC News)
Parents help raise money for beloved San Francisco teacher on sick leave (ABC News)
STACY CHEN

Parents help raise money for beloved San Francisco teacher on sick leave originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

Parents of children at a San Francisco elementary school are raising money for a teacher after finding out she would have to pay for her own substitute while on extended sick leave.

The public school teacher, who works at Glen Park Elementary School but has remained anonymous, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and had to extend her medical leave after using up the regular sick days she had accumulated, according to Lia McLoughlin, president of the school's Parent Teacher Organization.

There is a specific order in which a teacher’s sick days may be used, according to California law.

(MORE: Wave of teachers' strikes pressure states, school boards to change tune)

Once regular sick days are exhausted, teachers are eligible for extended sick leave for up to 100 days, during which they receive full pay, but the cost of their substitute teacher can be taken from their pay checks, depending on the district, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) told ABC News in a statement.

Once a teacher has used their extended sick days, they may become a member of the Catastrophic Sick Leave Bank, which is run jointly by the teachers' union and the SFUSD, according to school district. However, in order to eligible they would have to sign up during a specific time during the school year. In addition, the teacher “may receive no more than 85 days" from the bank in any school year, according to the contract.

McLoughlin helped set up the campaign for the Glen Park Elementary teacher on extended sick leave. She told ABC News the PTA met their $10,000 goal in less than 24 hours.

“We just want to help,” she said, noting expensive living costs in the Bay Area.“To say she is an impeccable teacher is an understatement,” she added. “She’s incredibly professional and 100% dedicated to her students.”

The GoFundMe page states that just a few days after her surgery, the teacher "took the time to write out 22 completely personalized notes to the students in the class thanking them for their support, telling them she missed them dearly and encouraging them to continue working hard."

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While most professions have a limited amount of fully paid sick leave, the Glen Park Elementary School incident has caused outrage in the Bay Area, already plagued by income inequality, and brought further attention to teachers’ general lack of resources.

“She takes such good care of our children, we just want to help her take care of herself,” McLoughlin said, adding teachers shouldn't be forced to choose between using sick days and coming to work to avoid the risk of being left with no sick days when faced with a serious injury or illness.

When asked about the Glen Park Elementary teacher, California Teachers Association told ABC News that it’s an “extremely difficult situation when a teacher or any employee exhausts sick leave and is faced with a significant loss of income while under differential pay or other disability benefits."

Available leave days have been a recurring problem for public school teachers in California and other states. Many female public school teachers – who account for 77% of public school teachers nationwide -- are forced to save their sick days for maternity leave in order to get paid time off. Places like Denver, Seattle, Boston and Houston have policies in which parental leave is deducted from sick days.

A lack of benefits including paid time off, low wages and a lack of resources have contributed to several teacher strikes across the U.S. in recent years.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of teachers in Oregon staged a walkout to push for an increase in school funding, the latest in a wave of protests that have included places like West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and California.

(MORE: Oakland teachers' strike ends with 11 percent raise and halt on charter schools)

"I don't know a parent who doesn't think a teacher is underpaid and under-resourced,” said Michael Mahoney, the parent of a student at Glen Park Elementary. “It's the most valuable investment we make."