(Jan. 27) – A bill by Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, to allow parents to take unpaid leave to attend their children’s essential academic activities passed the Education Committee on a party line vote this morning. HB16-1002, Rep. Buckner’s first bill of her legislative career, reenacts the 2009 “Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act,” which sunset in 2015.

“The bill takes the simple, common-sense step to ensure that working parents can take unpaid time off work to attend their children’s academic activities,” said Rep. Buckner. “I know the kids of Aurora and Colorado deserve every opportunity to succeed. I’m excited to get this important bill for working families past the first step in the process and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to make it law. Frankly, I’m disappointed that House Republicans joined in lockstep to oppose this simple, common-sense bill to help working families. In my first bill it was really sad to see my fellow legislators put politics before kids and parents.”

The hearing on the bill began on Monday, Jan. 25, but was laid over when Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, asked for a delay because, ironically, he needed to take his child to a doctor’s appointment. Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, Chair of the House Education Committee permitted the delay, reminding the room that many parents in Colorado do not have the luxury to rearrange work for their children’s needs, which is why this bill is so badly needed.

The hearing resumed today with the expectation that it would be a quick vote on a single amendment and then the bill. But the conversation was drawn out, first over an amendment proposed by GOP Rep. Joann Windholz, R-Commerce City, to remove a section to have schools notify parents of their right to ask for leave. Educators presented testimony on Monday that parental involvement is crucial, and that parents deserve to know their rights as it relates to staying involved with school activities. The amendment failed on a party line vote.

Republicans continued to belabor the point, insisting that this bill would affect businesses, despite the fact that the bill was law for over five years with no negative consequences.

Moving testimony was presented to the Education Committee by educators, parents, and students on Monday. The committee heard from Nicole Rodriguez, a mother who testified, “During my son’s fourth grade year, I did end up losing my job because I did not have protected time off to attend my child’s academic activities.”

Her son, Nicholas Rodriguez, age 12, described how he felt when his mother’s employer wouldn’t let her take time to attend his conferences.

“My mom was not even able to come to my class,” he said. “At first I thought she didn’t care because she wasn’t there. The principal wanted to see my mom but she couldn’t come.” Nicholas ended his testimony with a request: “Please pass this bill for my mom and me and families like us.”

Diana Jimenez, a parent of three, testified, “I’ve worked in hourly jobs for the past five years and have enjoyed the protection of the parental involvement bill. This bill helps working parents like myself feel more confident to ask for time of to be with their family. I’m just one of many parents who depend on this legislation to be involved in their children’s education.”

The 2009 legislation expired September 1, 2015. The new legislation does not include an expiration date.

The bill states that parents must provide their employer with at least a week’s notice, can take no more than six hours a month and can take up to 18 hours a year. This reasonable, important renewal of a proven policy will help parents and children who work hard achieve the success they deserve. The law applies only to businesses with 50 or more employees.

The Education Committee’s 6-5 vote sends the bill to the House floor for a second reading.

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