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Paid Parental Leave For Louisiana Teachers Clears First Legislative Hurdle

The proposal was approved without objection in the Senate Education Committee, but several members voiced concerns about its fiscal impact.

This is a photo of Louisiana Sen. Samuel Jenkins speaking during a committee hearing.
Sen. Samuel Jenkins authored a bill to provide paid parental leave to teachers and other school staff. (Louisiana Illuminator)

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Louisiana lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would provide six weeks of paid parental leave to teachers, but its cost has made some lawmakers wary.

Senate Bill 426, authored by Sen. Samuel Jenkins, D-Shreveport, comes with a $15 million cost to the state. The proposal was approved without objection Wednesday in the Senate Education Committee, but several members voiced concerns about its fiscal impact. Although the schools will still be responsible for the employee’s leave pay, the state would reimburse the school for the expense of a substitute teacher.

Committee chairman Sen. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, warned Jenkins he should work on the cost before his bill gets to the Senate Finance Committee, which must also approve the legislation before it’s considered on the Senate floor.

Jenkins amended his bill in the education committee to cut down its cost, but the legislative fiscal staff has yet to update its calculations. Under the amendment, the state would reimburse local school systems for the cost of a substitute teacher to cover the on-leave employee. Before the change, Jenkins’ bill required the state to cover the cost of the teacher’s salary during the parental leave period.

Depending on how the Legislative Fiscal Office accounts for substitutes, the amendments could make the bill $11 million cheaper.

Substitute teachers make between $60 and $100 a day depending on the school system, the substitute’s background and the length of substitution. Teacher salaries in Louisiana average $56,175 a year for 182 days of work.

The daily rate of pay for a teacher for six weeks is just over $9,000. A substitute would cost on average $2,400 for six weeks.

Under Jenkins’ legislation, teachers and support staff will be eligible for paid parental leave, in addition to any sick leave or paid time off they have accrued, as long as they have worked for a public school system for at least 12 months.

The leave can be used for the birth of a child, a pregnancy loss, adopted and foster children. Both parents will be eligible for leave if they are qualified employees.

Parents can take the leave together or separately. Parents also have the option to use the six weeks as they please, meaning it can be used all at once or spread out. However, the six weeks must be used within 12 months of the qualifying event.

Employers cannot require an employee to use sick leave or paid time off before using parental leave. Teachers and support staff will be paid 100% of their salary or base pay.

State money for parental school employee leave will be put into a fund for this specific purpose. Any dollars left in the fund at the end of the fiscal year will be invested, and interest earned from this investment would be credited to the fund.

In 2023, then-Gov. John Bel Edwards established six weeks paid parental leave for most unclassified state workers. Three of the four state’s higher education systems have since adopted the same for their employees.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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