BISD approves 12 weeks paid parental leave

The Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees meets Nov. 17, 2022, for a swearing in ceremony of newly elected board members Carlos Elizondo and Frank Ortiz at the Central Administration Building cafeteria in Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

The Brownsville Independent School District has adopted a policy granting full-time employees who become parents paid parental leave to both partners for the first 12 weeks of their new child’s life.

The BISD Board of Trustees adopted the policy on a unanimous vote at its meeting Tuesday. Policy committee chairwoman Daniella Lopez Valdez brought the initiative forward.

Citing the United Nations as a source, Lopez Valdez noted the United States stands alone among the world’s developed countries in not offering paid parental leave on some level as a national policy, although nine states decided to do it on their own.

“I know that it is a huge incentive. Usually when I look at resignations or things coming in from the district, a lot of it is child care. …As policy committee chair I’ve always tried to think of innovative ways to bring young, passionate teachers into the field who want to stay in the field because in reality we need to grow our own,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

She said that as a mom she knows it’s hard to find child care “and also that it’s hard to leave your child in those first few months. So I just felt like this was something we could do to attract and retain employees, but also to set a standard because if the United States can’t get it done we need to figure out another way to get it done, and hopefully others will follow,” she said.

“Also, we can create long-term teachers who are passionate because they are happy and they feel loyal to the district because we are able to grant them this special time with their child and not have to worry about pay,” she said.

Lopez Valdez said she sees paid parental leave as a health benefit for the community that can help in retaining the best teachers “so our kids can have the best education, because they’re the ones who will suffer if we don’t get the best quality and that’s what we’re about.”

The policy requires an employee to have three out of the last five years of service to the district to qualify for the benefit.

“We can improve mental health and well-being of parents and children, giving them a chance to bond while not stressing over not having a paycheck. It will increase the public and private investment by reducing rates of hospitalization among infants and improved maternal health, increased parental involvement and reduction of anxiety and even divorce,” she stated in presenting the policy.

Lopez Valdez thanked everyone who put the policy together, including Anysia R. Trevino, deputy superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and Human Resources, legal counsel, Superintendent Rene Gutierrez and her colleagues “for their support in this team effort.”