Paid family leave would be a win-win for Jefferson County Public Schools

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


Sleep deprivation, mental health challenges, breastfeeding, child care, family dynamics and body image are just a few of the challenges many new parents face when expanding their families. 

As a fierce maternal and child health advocate, Louisville Metro Office for Women ambassador and lactation consultant who supports new parents, I know that providing access to paid leave is imperative in addressing these challenges and keeping Kentucky families healthy. 

This is especially true when it comes to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding requires practice, and establishing a healthy milk supply generally takes between six and eight weeks. Countless studies indicate that breastfeeding is directly associated with increased infant bonding and reduced perinatal mood disorders, like postpartum depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder associated with a traumatic birth experience, and — in extreme cases — psychosis. 

Access to paid leave would also address Kentucky’s abysmal maternal mortality rates. Kentucky consistently ranks in the top 10 states for maternal mortality. Lack of access to paid leave is a social determinant of health that directly contributes to these numbers.

Fathers need access to paid leave too. When fathers have paid leave from work, the parental partnership is strengthened, and positive involvement increases parental confidence. Early and continued infant bonding with fathers has lasting and enriching impacts on child behavioral outcomes, academic success, and maternal mental health.

Very few families in Kentucky have access to paid leave. The United States is one of the few countries that does not have federal laws offering parental leave. Thirteen states have parental leave policies, but sadly, Kentucky isn’t one of them.

The good news is there is an opportunity to change this, at least for Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) employees at the board’s budget meeting on Tuesday, May 28.

Paid leave is a common sense investment in the JCPS workforce. Not only does paid leave demonstrate a commitment to employees’ physical and mental health, and the health of their families, it could save the district thousands of dollars. 

Paid leave fosters employee retention, offers work-life balance and invests in the future of retirees through the savings of paid time for sick leave. 

On average, urban school districts spend more than $20,000 on each new hire, on expenses related to separation, recruitment, hiring and training. These investments don’t pay their full dividend when teachers leave within one or two years. Implementing paid leave is imperative to attract and retain faculty and reduce the 26.1% teacher turnover rate.

No new parents should be forced to choose between their job and caring for their family. I challenge the JCPS board to adopt a paid leave policy to foster a better school district, community and Kentucky by ensuring all new parents and children can thrive.

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