Community | Opinion

The Gender Family Wage Disparity Among Teachers: Part 5 of 6

While Netflix is receiving praise by announcing a full year of paid maternity or paternity leave, it should not be forgotten that many professions do not share anything close to this benefit. Many teachers in the surrounding Detroit Metro area do not receive this benefit because having a child does not grant access to the union sick bank.

Teacher unions typically have what is called a sick bank. This refers to a collection of sick days teachers donate out of what is granted to them personally in the contract. The benefit is when a teacher is unable to work because of a health reason, and the teacher does not have enough of her own sick days to cover the time she may be out, the teacher can use the bank. Since these are paid sick days, the teacher is able to still receive her full salary. In the district where I work, the sick bank covers pregnancy.

In many districts though this benefit has been taken away or has not been successfully fought for. If a female teacher is intending on having a child, she has to purchase short term disability insurance. This may not seem surprising since many people have to purchase this kind of insurance. However, a male working in the same district wouldn’t need to pay for this kind of insurance because the sick bank would cover any disability he might have.

Although it is my position that both fathers and mothers deserve extended paid time off, women do not have the choice to take time off. Whether it is paid or unpaid, she has to take time off for the pregnancy. This means when teachers are having children, only women have to pay for insurance in order to keep income flowing. Having to pay to keep getting paid is really a wage reduction. It is easy to talk about wage disparity when looking at salary amounts or hourly rates, but sometimes it is the policy that does not take into account women’s health issues. Not granting access to the sick bank for pregnancy is saying that it is more beneficial for the male to work when starting a family.

Education is a field dominated by women, and has been for a long time. Yet even in this profession, women are discouraged from pursuing a career while having a family. As a male teacher, I would be willing to give up more days or even pay so women do not have to bare this income burden alone. The fate of the next generation is a responsibility befallen on all. Any work place, union or not, should find a way between employee and employer to guarantee at least 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Without it, women will never be seen as equal in the work place.

Paul Ruth
Paul obtained a M.A. in English from Marygrove College and is a high school English teacher at East Detroit High School and adjunct college English instructor. He has been published in various places around the web, and seeks to write on topics that impact the greater community.