The South Carolina House on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill allowing teachers or other school district staff up to six weeks of paid leave when they give birth or adopt a child.
The bill was passed 113-0 and faces one more routine approval before being sent to the Senate.
It mirrors a law passed last year that allowed parental leave for state employees. But the General Assembly didn’t include educators in that proposal and teachers were angry.
The House proposal allows teachers who give birth or are the primary caretakers of an adopted child six weeks of paid leave. The other parent can take up to two weeks and parents who foster a child in state custody also are eligible for two weeks of leave.
A number of school districts worried about how to pay for the leave, but supporters said they already have to pay for long-term substitutes and for sick leave. Plus, districts across the state have a total of about $1.5 billion in reserve accounts they can tap.
Teacher groups backed the bill, saying their surveys show teachers tend to begin looking to leave the classroom around the time they start families and providing leave could stem that tide.
If the bill becomes law, South Carolina would be the first state in the Southeast with parental leave for teachers, according to the Palmetto State Teachers Association.
A 30-year-old federal law allows up to 12 weeks of parental leave, but it is not paid.