NC teachers given flexibility with reasons for taking paid leave

The State Board of Education took away school districts’ ability to determine what an acceptable reason is for taking personal leave on most days.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If a teacher in North Carolina wants to take a personal leave day, they can now give any reason they want without being charged for hiring a substitute teacher to cover their classes.

On Thursday, the State Board of Education passed a policy amendment that took away school districts’ ability to determine what an acceptable reason is for taking a personal leave day.  

The policy change is in response to a law regarding time off for teachers that was worked into the 2021 state budget. The changes required districts to increase the cost of hiring a substitute from $50 a day to at least $98 when teachers used personal leave days and no reason was given. If a reason was given, and approved, no fee was assessed.

RELATED: North Carolina law intended to make it easy for teachers to take personal leave facing backlash

The state board then put a policy in place that local school districts would have to decide what was considered an acceptable reason.

At a state board meeting in January, one member said this requirement was an issue. 

“If we don’t have to have that acceptance step, why are we putting it in there,” a member said at the virtual meeting. 

Now, to avoid a fee all teachers must do is give five-day notice and write down a reason, then they’ve saved at least $98 in substitute teachers fees coming from their paychecks — except in some cases

“State board is trying to be slick,” Steve Oreskovic, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg School teacher, said. “They took out the paragraph and added a sentence, which is exactly the same thing.” 

Oreskovic is referring to the state’s policy amendment which took out the paragraph that reads: 

“The local administrative unit shall be responsible for determining what constitutes a “reason” as referenced in this policy. A teacher who fails to provide a locally approved reason for his/her absence may be charged the full cost of hiring a substitute.” 

This took away school districts’ responsibility for approving or not approving personal leave days given within five days. 

It added a sentence that reads: 

“Teachers using personal leave on these days may be required to provide a reason regardless of providing five days’ notice.” 

The days in question include the first day of school, a required teacher workday, state testing, and the day before or the day after a holiday or scheduled vacation day. These days are traditionally not approved for teachers to take personal leave. 

Oreskovic is dismayed the state board still felt the need to require some circumstances where a reason could be required by a school district for taking leave without being charged. 

“You’re going to slide in and say teachers using personal leave on these days may be required to provide a reason regardless of providing five days’ notice,” Oreskovic said. “Now you have to create lists of reasons that are approved versus on approved it, this is no change whatsoever.” 

Despite this carve-out, which wouldn’t impact the vast majority of the year,  teachers can still give any reason they want without being charged. 

School districts can still deny personal leave days with a reason given if it’s not within five days, and leave approval can be subject to the availability of subs.

The new policy change won’t force districts like CMS to create their own system of how to approve personal leave days for most of the year.  

CMS Board Chair Elyse Dashew celebrated the news. 

Prior to Thursday’s update, CMS had a working group bringing a draft recommendation to the Board of Education Policy Committee on a policy regarding leave days. 

It’s unclear if that group must still work on a policy regarding leave days for the restricted time periods outlined in the state board’s newest policy amendment.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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