The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

California Makes Sick Teachers Pay for Their Substitutes

May 27, 2019

When Heather Burns, a fifth-grade teacher in San Francisco, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, she was in for a bad surprise. Once she used up her paid sick days (10 days a year), California law required that Burns pay for her own substitute while out on extended sick leave – which amounted to half of Burns’ pay, deducted from her paycheck!

Faced with the danger of losing her home, Burns went back to work before fully recovering, against the advice of her doctor.

Burns’ case is not unique. In fact, she contacted a radio station with her story after reading in the news about another San Francisco teacher going through the same ordeal.

California teachers do not qualify for the state disability insurance, because they don’t pay into it. They’re just completely left out.

State Senator Connie Leyva promised to change the law to include teachers – but then added that teachers would have to wait, because things were “a little more complicated than we thought.” And a spokesperson for CTA, a teachers’ union, explained that changing the law would pose a problem for the “already cash-strapped” California school districts!

“You have to wait,” and “There is no money for that.” Sound familiar?

But perhaps the most revealing comment came from a San Francisco school district spokesperson who, trying to defend the district, said that no employers in this country, public or private, paid employees their full wages while on extended sick leave.

No, they don’t. And that’s the capitalist system’s ultimate message to working people: You better not get seriously ill because, if you do, you may lose everything you have and end up in the street with your family.