Connecticut Considers Bill to Allow Parental Leave for School Activities

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

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