A California teacher with a recent breast cancer diagnosis has now been hit with another surprise bill — a long-term substitute teacher.

The teacher, whom CNN has said has chosen to remain anonymous, teaches at Glen Park Elementary School in the San Francisco United School District (SFUSD). Because of her cancer diagnosis, she’s currently on medical leave.

Under a 1976 California law, teachers who have more than 10 sick days in a school year have to pay for a substitute teacher out of their own salary. And in SFUSD, the daily cost of a substitute teacher is $203.16. This means that, according to the SFUSD’s 2019-2020 academic calendar, the teacher could feasibly have to pay up to $36,568.80 if she’s out for all 180 instructional days on next year’s calendar.

While teachers can draw from a “sick leave bank” for up to 85 days without deducting from their paycheck (teachers can donate sick days to the sick leave bank to make sure their colleagues don’t have to pay for a substitute out of pocket), Glen Park parents say the educator is “one of the best teachers” in the school, and that the policy is “not fair.”

According to United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) president Susan Solomon, teachers are in the midst of negotiating for better sick leave policies in their next contract.

“The issues involving teachers’ use of extended sick leave and the catastrophic sick leave bank, as well as the school district’s use of a daily substitute dock rate, are governed by law and the collective bargaining agreement,” Solomon said in a public statement. “UESF is consulting with our members on their priorities for contract negotiations next year. As always, we look forward to making improvements in this and other parts of the contract.”

A GoFundMe for the teacher that has since stopped taking donations took in more than $13,000, saying the 17-year veteran educator has always had “dedication and love for her students.

“Just a few days after her surgery, she 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,” the fundraiser read.


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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