Schools should empower children to succeed from the day they're born
When she gets the call, Jenny Cooke wants to be ready. The Churchill Elementary second grade teacher is adopting a baby from Vietnam, so on Monday she asked the Cloquet School Board for and received a two-week leave of absence to pick up her baby...
When she gets the call, Jenny Cooke wants to be ready. The Churchill Elementary second grade teacher is adopting a baby from Vietnam, so on Monday she asked the Cloquet School Board for and received a two-week leave of absence to pick up her baby, finalize the adoption and return to Cloquet.
But, like many other mothers and fathers, she would like to take more time off work once her baby arrives, to bond and welcome him or her to her family.
The Family Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, guarantees that right for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for parents who meet certain guidelines.
Cooke would like to take six weeks upon returning home, and ideally, like many other area teachers who are also parents, would like to use six weeks of sick time she has accumulated so she can still care for her child without forgoing her paycheck.
Unfortunately for Cooke, the contract between the Cloquet School District and teachers specifies that up to six weeks of paid sick time can be used for mothers who give birth, but not for those who adopt.
The current policy does not address adoption, according to Ken Scarbrough, Cloquet Schools superintendent.
"Maybe we should change the policy then," said Sandy Crowley, school board member at Monday's meeting.
Not only is there no language addressing adoption, the language that exists for fathers or partners seems unjust as well - with only five days of sick time allowed when a child is born.
Since studies continually show the importance of early childhood care and schools continually tout early childhood education as the foundation of a child's success, schools should take this opportunity create a policy that supports kids literally from day one.
Whether it's categorized as "sick" time, or the more forward-thinking "paid time off," that time should be used as parents dictate and with the full support of their employer.
- Lisa Baumann