CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — North Carolina is now making changes to paid parental leave so that teachers won’t be forced to choose between not getting paid or returning to work shortly after having a baby. 

In the past, the state’s teachers caring for other children haven’t had the time off work to care for their own. 

“Many educators did before this comes into place, have to make choices about when to start or expand their families,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. 

That includes trying to schedule the birth of a baby in the summer months when school’s out or using all their sick and vacation time following a birth because up until July 1, teachers have not had paid parental leave. 

“It allows us to recognize the full humanity of people who care for other children,” said Walker Kelly. 

A new law is in effect that gives teachers and other state employees paid parental leave up to eight weeks after giving birth to a child. 

New benefits are also extended to parents adopting or fostering children. 

“Many of them will now be able to have the comfort and security of knowing that they can have that paid aspect, but also take the necessary time needed to spend time with their children,” said Walker Kelly. 

The new paid parental leave is buried deep in an unlikely place on pages 30 and 31 of the 47-page new North Carolina law, which bans most abortions after 12 weeks.  

“It is unfortunate, however, that this positive aspect has come in the larger context of the SB20 abortion changes,” said Walker Kelly. “However, we will continue to advocate for our families to have more flexibility and choices in their decision-making.”  

NCAE says the state is really catching up to other states when it comes to paid parental leave. Last month, South Carolina extended up to six weeks of paid parental leave to school district employees.