CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — North Carolina teachers are getting an A+ in benefits after a Queen City News exclusive investigation brought about changes to paid parental leave.
QCN is the only news organization in North Carolina to look into the issue because a teacher first reached out to us, and we uncovered a loophole at the state level denying some teachers paid parental leave.
Cash Hollifield is only nine weeks old, too young to know that his mom made a difference for others like her.
“I’m like, ‘If I don’t do anything about this situation, there’s going to be all of these women that are negatively impacted by a bill that was supposed to help us,” said Hollifield.
Hollifield, a teacher, came to Queen City News Anchor Robin Kanady for help.
Hollifield was denied paid parental leave when Cash was born this summer.
“It was so stressful,” said Hollifield.
Hollifield has been teaching in North Carolina public schools for 17 years, including 10 years earlier in her career in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. But she was told she would not get paid parental leave because she switched school districts last year, since she had not been at her current district for 12 months.
“Educators need that right now, there are so many of us that are contemplating leaving education for reasons like this,” she explained.
Kanady recently discovered a loophole in North Carolina’s paid parental benefits, so she started reaching out to lawmakers.
“That feels very unfair, I hope that’s not the intention of the new proposed rule,” said state Sen. Natasha Marcus, a Democrat representing Mecklenburg County, in an interview with QCN in August.
Hollifield also spoke with elected leaders.
“It’s frustrating for a lot of teachers because they put a lot of work in for our kids, and they deserve this time off,” said Kevin Donovan, a school board member in Johnston County, where Hollifield now works.
Hollifield didn’t stop.
“I actually had one of the senators basically like, kindly, ‘Stop emailing me,” said Hollifield laughing.
State lawmakers listened.
Tucked away in the bulky budget that just passed is a section that says going forward, teachers who switch districts will get paid parental leave, as long as they’ve been teaching in North Carolina K-12 public schools or public higher education for at least 12 consecutive months before having a baby or adopting a child.
“I was relieved, very excited,” Hollifield said.
She returns to the job she loves Monday.
“I’m so excited to see all of my students but I’m so sad to leave Cash,” said Hollifield.
She’s satisfied that she never really stopped working for others.
“We’ll be able to just love on our babies and just relax and know that we have that time with them.”