[Opinion] Broward County teachers should receive paid maternity leave


Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS

Second-grader Jacqueline Solano gets instructions from her teacher Tiffany Harmon at Broward Estates Elementary School in Lauderhill, Florida.

Abby Marton, Section editor

As the second quarter of the 2021-2022 school year is well underway, Broward County still faces a pressing issue in their schools: a shortage of teachers. As COVID-19 caused teaching to go virtual last year, multiple teachers have come to the realization that the school district does not provide them with proper benefits.

Paid maternity leave is one of the most prominent examples of a benefit that the Broward County Public Schools District refuses to provide its teachers. Instead of being offered paid time off when teachers give birth, they are forced to use almost all of their sick days in order to receive pay during this period.

According to the Broward Teachers Union, each full-time employee is only permitted four sick days per year and one additional day for each month they are employed. In the case that a teacher is new or has already used a handful of their sick days, they are allotted only a minimal number of days to spend significant time with their child.

In the first two years of life, babies are usually scheduled for around 10 pediatric checkups, racking up a hefty medical bill. This, along with the cost of diapers, baby food and clothing, usually make the cost of raising a newborn come out to around $12,000 and $14,000 per year, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Having to now care for a newborn baby with such a low salary puts new parents in the school system at an extremely high financial risk. Due to this risk, several teachers are forced to take shorter maternity leaves than women with other careers.

In addition to the toll that unpaid maternity leave has on teachers’ pockets, it can also be detrimental to the mental health of new mothers. Approximately half of all new mothers begin to experience postpartum depression in which they tend to feel an emotional disconnect from their child, causing severe guilt and depression.

According to the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, paid maternity leave in general is proven to have “beneficial effects on the mental health of mothers and children, including a decrease in postpartum maternal depression… and improved infant attachment and child development.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most effective form of treatment for postpartum depression is getting as much rest as you can, connecting with other new moms and creating time to take care of yourself. None of these can be achieved, however, by teachers who do not take proper time off from work.
It is not uncommon to hear motherhood being referred to as the most difficult job in the world. For the women who also dedicate their lives to teaching our youth (arguably the second hardest job in the world), providing them with the benefits necessary to live comfortably is the least we can do to show our gratitude. This is especially true for teachers in Broward County who, as we all know, have been through so much more in the last five years than many of us could ever imagine.

Broward County should not only acknowledge, but compensate for this struggle by providing new mothers with paid maternity leave. This will not only relieve teachers of some financial strain, but also emotional burdens, as they try to form a bond with their newborn child in an incredibly short time span.