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North Carolina makes changes to personal leave policy for teachers

The State Board of Education amended a policy that would have required teachers to give an "acceptable" reason for a personal day and avoid paying fees.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — North Carolina teachers will now be allowed to give any reason to take a personal day during the school year without a financial penalty.

Previously, North Carolina teachers were required to pay a $50 fee to defray the cost of hiring a substitute, regardless of if a reason was given by the teacher for taking leave. Then, a law passed with the state budget said if teachers gave an "acceptable" reason for their personal leave, they will not be charged the full cost of the substitute. That "acceptable reason" would have to be defined by the employer. 

"The concern I have is that leaving that approval or disapproval in the hands of districts or whoever to say yay or nay I think it really just further compounds the problem," said James Ford, a member of the state Board of Education at its January meeting. 

In Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, officials said the full cost of a substitute could be around $150 for the day.

"We think it's great to not pay the $50; however, giving a reason makes it feel like we are not treated like professionals. Personal leave should be private," said Val Young, the president of the Forsyth County Association of Educators.

Now, the State Board of Education has amended the policy, only requiring that teachers give any reason for taking the leave to avoid paying the full cost of the substitute. Board of Education officials say they should also give a five-day notice to ensure the request is granted.

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Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School officials said if teachers provide a reason, they will not be charged the $50 daily fee. 

Val Young said teachers shouldn't have to give a reason for personal leave at all. 

"We are entrusted with the most precious things in the world, our children, but you don't trust that if I say I need a personal day out then I need a personal day and I don't need you to micromanage what the reason is," said Val Young, president of FCAE.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. According to the Board of Education amendment, teachers are not allowed to take personal leave on the first day of school, a required teacher workday, state testing days, or the day before or after a holiday or scheduled vacation day. If teachers try to use personal days on those dates, the Board of Education said they may be required to give a reason regardless of a five-day notice.

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