Parents are often criticized for the choices they make, but rarely are the structural issues that facilitate these choices addressed.

A Colorado State House bill (HB-1001), sponsored by State Rep. Janet Buckner (D-Arapahoe) and State Sen. Andy Kerr (D-Jefferson), seeks to guarantee parents up to six hours leave per month, and 18 hours per academic year, in order to attend a child’s academic activities and teacher conferences.

The bill is an amended version of a 2009 law, which served essentially the same purpose but expired in September 2015 and was not renewed. This year’s legislation sets no repeal date.

Proponents say the bill addresses the structural challenges faced by low-income families and would be particularly helpful for Colorado’s Latino community.

Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) issued a statement in support of the bill.

“We have a number of programs created to support young people and college students in our community.  We work with local high schools and campuses to provide information on sexual health, as well as programs to engage young people in the political process.  We also have activities connecting with parents in the Latinx community to help them talk with and build strong relationships with their children and help them and their children to get and stay healthy, be informed and empowered and be part of the process that impacts our families and our lives.

When parents are able to attend their child’s school activities, it contributes to students’ academic progress and helps to cultivate a strong tie between parents and students.  We have heard firsthand from young people we work with about how difficult it can be when parents are not able to take time off work to attend an event or in my case to be there for a teacher conference.  Many families are working hard to pay the bills, the rent and to feed and take care of their families.  They cannot risk her job.  It is too important to their health and survival that they can make ends meet.

Without the option of taking leave during work hours, many parents are not able to attend teacher conferences.  This can make students feel like their parents do not care and can make it harder for educators to work with parents and families to support students’ success and wellbeing.

The parents we talk to want to be able to be there for their kids without having to worry about losing their jobs.   One of the young women we worked with through our Latinas Increasing Political Strength or “LIPS” program, talked about how her mother was afraid she would lose her job if she took time off for a conference with her teachers.  She said it sometimes made her feel like her mom didn’t support her and that she worried that her little sister would feel the same.  Another LIPS program participants talked about how her parents not able to be at many school events because of work and it made her feel neglected and angry at times.  She ended up getting into trouble.  She also spoke of how her friends sought out attention in negative ways when their parents couldn’t attend a talent show or an assembly when they received an award or a key sports game where they excelled.

This bill would help many students to feel that their parents care and are backing them up.  This has been shown to result in higher grades, better test scores, improved attendance, and increased graduation rates.  This is so critical for Latinas and our community in helping to improve the achievement gap.  We get the honor of working with parents and young people in our community who want to cultivate strong relationships and help each other to succeed and thrive.  This bill would help.

Being able to attend a school event or be there for a teacher conference really does affect a child in a positive way.  It can help prevent them from acting up, but more important it can help them see that their parent is paying attention, is standing with them and will hold them accountable if they are not doing what they should and support them to do well.  We are here for the young people we work with and the parents we work with.  We are here to support Latinas and our families in being able to build strong, healthy families.”