How much leave do teachers get?

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One of the perks of teaching has always been the amount of time off that comes with the job, often viewed as a godsend for a rewarding job that still allows a good work/life balance. Before any sick or personal leave is factored in, teachers work approximately 185 days a year versus about 230 days for most professions. Still, districts have to give teachers some amount of leave for taking a school day off in the event of illness or other personal reasons.  
In our new brief, A Closer Look at Teacher Leave Benefits: An Apples to Apples Comparison, we count up how much leave teachers are getting in the large school districts that are included in our TR3 database. This is a lot harder to pin down than you might think. To do it fairly it isn't just a matter of adding up sick and  personal days, but accounting for all sorts of other special categories of leave that some districts have added in to their teacher contracts over the years, such as special leave for attending a wedding (either one's own or someone else's), graduation or funeral.
The table below shows how the districts line up, with Hartford, Toledo and Burlington giving the most general leave (sick+personal+special leave days that most districts don't offer) to all of their teachers (Newark is technically number 1, though only for those teachers in the district who have 25 years or more of experience). These districts effectively provide teachers a paid day off every seven or eight days of the school year. 

The average among our 113 districts is 13.5 days of general leave a year.  At the very bottom of the list is Desoto County, Mississippi, which gives teachers 9 general leave days each year, about one day a month.

What some may not realize is that there are costs associated with these packages, regardless of whether teachers use the leave.  Almost all disticts let teachers "cash in" unused sick leave when they retire.  A teacher with a master's degree working in Springfield, Massachusetts who took 30 days of sick leave over 30 years would get a check for $20,280; perfect attendance would yield a payout of $23,400.  When districts make it possible to use as little sick leave as possible because they have created so many other kinds of leave that teachers can use instead, they greatly increase their likely payout. Sick leave, in effect, becomes a savings plan for retirement.

To see how all 113 districts in our TR3 database stack up, check out A Closer Look at Teacher Leave Benefits.

Ten TR3 districts with the most annual general leave

* About 7 percent of Newark teachers have 25 years experience or more, according to data provided by the Newark Teachers Union.

Correction: an earlier version of this post said people in non-teaching professions typically work around 260 days a year.  When vacation and holidays are subtracted, the actual number of days is closer to 230 days.  The current post reflects this correction.