COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – A bill that would mandate school districts offer paid parental leave to school employees is moving through the South Carolina State House.

Last year, state lawmakers established paid parental leave for eligible state employees.

H.3908 advanced out of the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday morning.

This bill provides any eligible school district employee with 6 weeks of paid parental leave for
the birth of a child or adoption of a child. Two weeks of paid parental leave would be provided for the co-parent of a newborn or adopted child or following placement of a foster care child.

Patrick Kelly with the Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA) said this would help with teacher recruitment in South Carolina.

“At a moment when we’re experiencing a record educator shortage, we will be the first and only state in the Southeast offering paid parental leave to our teachers,” Kelly said. “This is a huge recruitment tool for our school districts with competing with other states.”

According to Kelly, this would also help with retention of teachers. “It is critically important to support the people that are caring for our children every day when they are trying to have the time with their own child.”

The South Carolina School Boards Association said they’re in favor of paid parental leave for eligible school employees. Debbie Elmore said their organization is concerned about the financial impact this could have on school districts.

“We need to make sure that if we’re going to mandate this, that districts are in a position to be able to cover this. That’s all we’re asking for,” Elmore said.

According to the fiscal impact statement of the legislation prepared by the Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, the impact on districts will vary widely depending on the district’s current policies, substitute costs, and the number of employees impacted. Some districts will not have any additional cost, whereas other districts will experience an increase in their costs to a varying degree.

Right now, at least three school districts offer some form of paid parental leave to teachers.

The South Carolina House of Representatives could debate this bill on the floor as soon as next week.