LETTER: Pass parental leave legislation

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For kids, it can be crucially important to have their parents involved every step of the way of their education. As parents, we both know how important it is for us to take the time to meet with our kids’ teachers so that we know how our children are doing in the classroom. If we don’t show our kids that we care about their education and future, how are we to expect they will care as well?

State Rep. Janet Buckner, D-AuroraStudies have shown that when parents are involved and engaged with their kids’ education, we see higher achievement, better grades and a greater interest in post-secondary education. Those same studies also found better attendance and improved behavior. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that not only do a majority of parents believe they can never be too involved in their children’s education, but that a vast majority of African American and Hispanic parents believe this as well.

Some parents in Colorado are fortunate enough to have jobs that give them the flexibility or time off to be involved in their kids’ education and academic activities. Many Colorado parents do not have this option, however.

Across the state today, many hard-working parents have to skip that parent-teacher conference because their jobs don’t provide the flexibility to take those couple of hours of time off. We see this scenario play out especially with students from low-income families.

This isn’t fair.

If we want to ensure that every member of the next generation of Coloradans has a level playing field to thrive and meet their potential, every child should have the same opportunity to have their parents be involved with their academic activities. Frankly, the wealthy and well-off shouldn’t be the only types of people who can afford to take some time off to participate in their child’s education.

Back in 2009, we passed the “Parental Involvement for Academic Achievement Act,” which allowed employees to take unpaid leave to attend their kids’ activities. The Act expired last year, and unfortunately, legislation sponsored by the late State Representative John Buckner to continue the state policy died on a party-line vote in
10400631_53210528489_3508_ncommittee in 2015.

This year, we’re carrying a similar bill — House Bill 16-1002 — that would require large companies to provide their workers with 18 hours of unpaid time off for parent-teacher conferences or meetings related to interventions, dropout prevention, attendance, truancy or special education services.

The bill passed out of the House with a bipartisan vote, and will be heard before the Republican-controlled Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday, March 9. It is our sincere hope our Senate Republican colleagues join us in supporting this bill, and that it doesn’t meet the same fate as the 2015 bill.

Rep. Janet P. Buckner, D-Aurora, is the State Representative of House District 40. State Senator Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, is the State Senator of Senate District 22.