AURORA | It was a bittersweet moment for state Rep. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, when she sat down with two Overland High School teachers and one Overland student to discuss working parents’ inability to take time off to attend student conferences.
“This is what John wanted, but this is what I want too,” Buckner said with tears in her eyes about a measure she is introducing this legislative session that would allow parents to take unpaid time off for their children’s academic activities.
Buckner, who took over her late husband John Buckner’s seat after his death last May, met with the small group Friday, Jan. 8, in a Panera Bread in Aurora.
The measure, also known as the parental involvement bill, failed to pass the state Legislature last year when John introduced it, Buckner said, because some members of the business community rallied against it. It was opposed by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry and the National Federation of Independent Business.
Eliza Hamrick, a teacher at Overland for nearly 30 years, said she has seen several of her students suffer from their parents not being able to speak with her at parent-teacher conferences because they could not get time off from work.
“I see 150 students each semester, sometimes 300 over a year,” she said. “I need to know over time what it is that the parent is seeing with their student.”
Beza Gebremariam, an 18-year-old senior at Overland, said this year was the first time her father could take time off of work to attend a school awards ceremony. Gebremariam said both her parents work and that she and her younger sister would benefit greatly from the bill being passed.
“My mom came here from Ethiopia to make something for herself and her kids,”Gebremariam said. “She wants us to do better, and this bill helps with that.”
The 2015 measure would have required businesses with 50 or more employees to give them up to 18 hours a year in unpaid leave for parent-teacher conferences, special education services, interventions, dropout prevention, attendance, truancy, and disciplinary issues.
It was a continuation of a bill that passed the state Legislature in 2009 that had a sunset date of 2015. It passed the state House but failed to pass in the Republican-controlled state Senate.
This year’s parental involvement bill hasn’t been assigned to a state legislative committee yet. The General Assembly convenes Wednesday, Jan. 13.