California Teacher Forced to Pay Substitute Because of Cancer


In California, the law mandates that teachers pay substitutes out of their own salaries when on extended leave. This is the case right now for an unidentified teacher who is currently battling breast cancer. She is liable to have a max of $246 taken out each day. This teacher works for the San Francisco Unified School District, teaching second grade at Glen Park Elementary. Teachers in California are allowed only ten sick days per year, then every day after that comes out of their own paychecks. This is because teachers in California are not paying into the disability program of the State, so they do not get any of its benefits. This seems pretty harsh considering that they do not have a choice. I am pretty sure that teachers in California would rather pay into the disability program than be so restricted.

Parents of the children in this teacher’s class are currently raising money for her. As one parent stated, “She has nurtured our children and now it is time for us to take care of her.” I think it is amazing that people are coming together to help this teacher out, but it is not enough. Why is the system like this in the first place? Well, a law that was passed in 1976 is responsible for this mess. Teachers are only allowed the aforementioned  ten days off with pay. After that, they are only allowed 100 days off of extended sick leave where they have to pay the substitute. If they continue to be absent beyond that time, they will be unpaid and liable to be fired. This law is so harsh that Californian teachers have even created a catastrophic sick leave bank where they donate their unused days. This allows teachers who need it, to take sick leave and still be paid.

Considering that over half a million people in the United States die from cancer every year, this law is insane. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and with numbers like that, a teacher is very likely to get sick or have a family member become ill. Plus, the cost of treating cancer is rising every year. Statistics report that a year of chemo can range from $66,826 to $102,395. Three months of radiation therapy can average $35,761 to $38,732. None of this includes the actual cost of the surgery itself, which widely varies by type of cancer, but is most often into the 100,000 dollar range. How is a teacher supposed to pay for a substitute while managing all of these extreme expenses?

We all have those memorable teachers from our school years. The ones who took the extra time to help us out, make sure we were okay, and who made learning fun. This teacher is one of those teachers. Parents commented to the press that she, “wrote 22 personalized notes to all the students in her class to thank them for their support”(Flynn, Meagan), “telling them she missed them dearly and encouraging them to keep working hard.” These are the teachers who stick with us throughout our lives. The ones who care. We all know that no one enters into the education field for the money, but to make an impact. Why can’t we help these teachers out?

I have to say, this story really touched me on multiple levels. It is absurd to see a law like this still in effect, but I am not surprised. When the focus is on money, this is what happens. It reminds me of the Red for Ed movement that happened in several states last year, including mine. I stood up with those teachers (metaphorically) and their courage to demand better pay. If you think about it, without teachers we have nothing. We have no government, no way to build things, nothing. Teachers, in all shapes and forms, teach people how to do things, whether it be to fix a car or to learn physics. I am standing by this teacher and her situation. My part of raising awareness to the situation may be small, but you never know who will read it. I want to leave this article off with a quote from Lance Armstrong, “We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up or fight like hell.”

Thank you for reading this important article today! What do you think of California’s sick leave practice? Has this ever happened to you? Please subscribe and share. I’ll see you next time, my Un-imaginables!


“Average Elementary School Teacher Salary in Sacramento, California.” PayScale,

Flynn, Meagan. “A Teacher Battling Cancer Must Pay for Her Own Substitute. In California, It’s the Law.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 10 May 2019,

“How Much Cancer Costs.”,

Yancey-Bragg, N’dea. “A California Teacher with Breast Cancer Needs More Sick Days. She Has to Pay for a Substitute.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 10 May 2019,

Original Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “California Teacher Forced to Pay Substitute Because of Cancer

  1. As absurd as the California law is, they are not alone. My mother’s mom used to be a middle and high school teacher down in North Carolina, and from what I’ve heard I think they had a similar law with their teachers when they were sick.

    Liked by 1 person

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