Friday, January 23, 2009

House Education Committee Holds Off on Two Big Bills

The House Education Committee heard testimony Thursday on two of the most significant education-related bills of the session but put off a vote on both.

During early afternoon the committee heard an hour of testimony on HB 1009, which would require all public schools and colleges to conduct at least two emergency drills each year.

Later, committee chair Rep. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, laid over HB 1057, after taking several hours of testimony on that measure. HB 1057 would require many businesses to grant employees time off to attend school-related functions for their children.

Business interests oppose the school activities leave legislation, arguing that it would be unfair to employees who are not parents and that, in any event, an employee's vacation time or personal leave should be used for such things.

But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, told the committee that such employer benefits do not provide enough time for parents to participate in their children's education.

The Denver Post quotes Kerr as saying that the need for the bill is "hard to quantify because these are not people who are used to standing up and making noise. It's the parents you most need to talk to who are the ones who are least likely to be there for conferences."

At least some of the state's school districts take the position that easing the way for parental involvement in school academic activities and attendance at parent-teacher conferences would raise student achievement.

"Any chance for parents to be involved in their child's learning is a benefit for students," Lynn Setzer, a spokesperson for Jefferson County School District, said.

According to the Post report Kerr will amend his bill to lower the maximum amount of time available for an employee to attend school events from 40 hours to 18 hours each year. The bill would also limit the employee to six hours per month and require that notice be given to an employer before time is taken away from work to attend a school-related event, which could include parent-teacher conferences, science fairs, dramatic and musical events in which the employee's child is a participant, and other academic functions.

The bill would not permit parents to take unpaid leave from work to attend a sporting event.

Education News Colorado is reporting that Merrifield may have laid over both bills because there is not currently enough "aye" votes to move them out of committee.