To the editors:
As any parent, teacher, school nurse, or day care provider knows, children frequently get sick. When they do, sitting in school doesn't help them get better. They need to be home with a parent. Also, no parent wants their child to be in a classroom where there is a child with pink eye, a fever, or vomiting.
Having been a school nurse for 29 years in the Philadelphia public schools, I witnessed time and time again children who came to school sick because their parents had to work and couldn't afford to take the day off helping their children get better. The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy's Amy Traub estimates that more than two in five Philadelphia workers are not able to earn paid sick time to care for their own illness – and many more can't take sick time to care for a child.
Furthermore, children with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes need follow-up appointments to adjust medications and evaluate treatments. Once the adjustments are made, their care can become routine, they miss less time from school, and their parents miss less time from work. Children whose parents don't have paid sick time often have to obtain care for their children on a catch-as-catch-can basis. This can exacerbate a chronic condition and pose risks to life and health.
Making the decision to stay home with a sick child when it means losing a day's pay or even one's job is an impossible choice.
This can change in Philadelphia. City Council can pass Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces (Bill No. 080474) before leaving for the summer. This bill guarantees workers the ability to earn paid sick days. The number of sick days earned will depend on the size of the business.
Earned sick time will help keep our children healthy. It will keep workers focused on work when they are working, and caring for their children when they need to be with their children.
Earned sick days for Philadelphia workers are common sense.
Diane Mohney, RN
The writer is a certified school nurse.