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April 09, 2013 2:48 PM Connecticut Considers Bill to Allow Parental Leave for School Activities

By Daniel Luzer

Many education reformers believe that increasing parental involvement can improve student learning. Tennessee may be trying to cut off federal welfare benefits to poor families if children fail classes or parents don’t show up at parent-teacher conferences, but Connecticut is taking another tactic.

According to a piece in Education Week:

A Connecticut bill that would allow parents to take up to 20 hours of parental leave from their employers to attend their children’s school-related activities is under consideration. It was sent to the House Committee on Appropriations on April 3.
The bill covers parents, guardians, or grandparents who have custody of a school-age child, and it addresses “qualified” school-related activities, which include parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school nights, and school board meetings. The bill, which was introduced by Committee on Children, would require an annual allotment of 20 hours leave.

Maryland introduced a similar law last year. The bill died after the legislature’s Economic Matters committee issued a critical report about the potential economic impact of the legislation.

The Connecticut bill may face similar opposition. As a spokesman for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association put it, the legislation “disregards the staffing needs of employers and conflicts with their policies for requesting and approving time off that were implemented to provide fairness amongst all employees.”

Well there’s that. There’s also the fact that it might not really work to accomplish legislators’ education goals.

The vice president of government relations at the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association told Ed Week that “schools would need to spend another $1,000 more per pupil to get the same gains in student achievement that an involved parent brings.” That’s an interesting, if hard to verify, point, but 10 states—Massachusetts, Vermont, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Louisiana, California—and the District of Columbia already require that employers provide leave for parents or guardians to participate in school activities. These include some of the best places in America in terms of k-12 achievement, but also some of the worst.

The states passed these parental involvement laws between 1993 and 2009. Did achievement improve after that?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on April 10, 2013 2:05 PM:

    Hmmm... This is one of those topics that begs us to ask: Does it really need to "work"--quantitatively--in order for it to be good policy?

    For this issue, I don't think measuring achievement after implementation is a worthwhile effort. But only because I think that promoting parental involvement is good policy in itself. And I think states should be doing whatever is possible to remove the road blocks that tend to limit parental involvement. If it doesn't spur achievement, at least it gets society to accept as a new norm that work shouldn't come before family, especially children--which is a concept that is incredibly foreign in a country of overworked workaholics.

    And as to the hooey from the Conn. BIA about staffing needs and what not: at least with school events, they're planned and on a calendar somewhere. Any manager with sufficient notice would be able to plan around an absent employee. Which is a lot more convenient than illness and death, which don't give the courtesy of warning.

    I would like to hope that this kind of policy would also help the most vulnerable employees: those single parents in low-wage jobs who are constantly under threat of being fired for taking one too many bathroom breaks. These are the folks who really need the protection: for their own sake and their children's. Their children are the most at risk for low achievement, so our society should be especially keen on making sure that these parents can be involved in their children's education.

  • Scholarship001 on April 13, 2013 1:31 PM:

    A Connecticut bill that would allow parents to take up to 20 hours of parental leave from their employers to attend their children’s school-related activities is under consideration.