California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a law that will eliminate the three-year cap on the transfer of sick leave between districts at all education levels.
The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC), a professional membership association that advocates for California Community College faculty, sponsored the legislation. FACCC has more than 9,000 members within 72 districts and 114 colleges across the state.
“It’s a bill that came out of conversations we’ve had with our membership as well as other stakeholders,” said Stephanie Goldman, the external affairs director at FACCC.
The current law, according to Goldman, allowed faculty members three years to transfer their sick leave from one district to another. Originally, around five years ago, the sick leave cap was only one year.
As part of the transfer process, forms are supplied to faculty members and they submit them to the district from where they want to transfer the sick leave away. The district’s human resource office fills out the forms and note the number of sick days. Then the district reports the information to the California State Teacher’s Retirement System (CalSTRS) at the time of retirement.
CalSTRS provides retirement benefits for California’s public school educators from prekindergarten through community college.
Richard Hansen, an FACCC member and retired faculty member from the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, believes that the transfer process makes sense for a part-time K-12 instructor but not for part-time community college faculty.
“Part-time community college faculty never know for sure when they’ve left one district and won’t be going back,” said Hansen. “So it’s awkward for them to be transferring sick leave around when it may be a number of years before they get another assignment. But then a call will come, they take a new assignment and right away they are back working with a district that they thought maybe they were going to leave and didn’t.”
FACCC found that many part-time faculty workers did not understand when to transfer their sick leave and, as a result, were losing out on the earned benefit.
Additionally, many faculty members remained unaware that in some cases, unused sick leave can be reported to CalSTRS and be converted into service credit. During the course of an individual’s career, the unused sick leave may equal a year or more of sick leave credit, according to FACCC.
“So our potential solution was to eliminate that with this bill, and we were really pleased that we got a lot of great support,” said Goldman.
The author of the bill, Assembly member Evan Low (D-Campbell), introduced the bill Feb. 19, 2019. Low has experience in the community college field, as he taught American government and political science at Foothill-De Anza Community College.
The California Teachers Association, California Retired Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, California School Employees Association, California Faculty Association and the Foothill-De Anza Faculty Association also supported the bill.
The new law will go into effect for faculty Jan. 1, 2020.
“We are hoping that it makes life easier for our members,” said Goldman. “Even as recently as last week, I actually had a FACCC member who had unused sick leave for when she worked in the K-12 world and was trying to transfer it to her community college that she had been working at for over the last decade. And the community college wasn’t accepting it because of what the statute currently says. We are hoping that we don’t have issues like that come up and that people can actually transfer their sick leave as needed when they actually go to retire.”
Hansen believes the approval of the bill is one step forward to professionalize and improve the work lives of community college part-time faculty. To fully support part-time employees, there needs to be a focus on pay equity as well as a development of a clear path to full-time employment.
Hansen added that creating a more professional work environment would increase the diversity among faculty members.
“A talented person of a diverse background, they’ve got options,” he said. “And community college maybe isn’t as attractive as the other options. How can we incentivize talented people from a wide variety of social backgrounds to get involved and teach in the system? It has to be a professional job. People of the diverse nature have families and life needs that need to be met.”
Sarah Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.