Gov. Rick Scott can share the humanitarian spirit of Florida's educators and legislators by signing HB 285, a bill allowing teachers to donate paid sick leave to needy colleagues. Both the House and Senate approved the measure unanimously.
Unfortunately, one of people who could have benefitted from the legislation died two years ago. In 2009, the Times detailed the dilemma facing teacher Connie Duffy who kept reporting to work while battling cancer because she had exhausted her own sick leave and couldn't afford to forfeit her income.
Current state law prohibits teachers and other district employees from sharing their own sick time with specific co-workers. In Pasco, district employees can donate days to a sick leave pool that is disbursed as workers apply for assistance. It can be an embarrassing, and in the case of Duffy, unsatisfying procedure.
Three years ago, Duffy, a 26-year teacher at Bayonet Point Middle School, was fighting inoperable, late-stage endometrial cancer that had spread to her sciatic nerve, making it painful at times to stand or even sit. In the spring, she applied for the sick leave bank, hoping to get enough days to sustain her through the rest of the school year. A district committee denied her request. It enraged her colleagues who wanted to donate their own time to her and sparked calls for change from Pasco School Board members. Duffy died several months later.
A resolution, however, did not come until a similar episode in Martin County when an elementary teacher exhausted her sick time while her husband recovered in North Carolina from a brain injury. That prompted legislation from Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, allowing districts to create policies permitting teachers and school workers to transfer their accrued sick leave to any other district employee.
It's a compassionate measure letting friends help friends when they need it most. Scott should allow them to do so.