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Parent leave bill wrapped up

The proposal to let some parents take leave from work for school conferences has survived the 2009 legislative session with 45-20 House approval Monday of compromise language proposed by a conference committee.  The Senate had signed off on April 27.

Earlier in the session House Bill 09-1057 touched off a business vs. education debate. Some lawmakers and interest groups saw it as an unwarranted imposition on employers and argued that lack of parental involvement has broader causes than parents being unable to get time off from work for teacher conferences.

The Senate added an amendment that would allow employers to deny time off if it would disrupt the operations of a business. The House didn’t like that language and called for the conference committee.

The compromise leaves employer discretion in the bill but would limit it to situations “where the absence of the employee would result in a halt of service or production.”

Other provisions of the bill would:

  • Allow leave for a fairly narrowly defined list of academic activities, such as parent-teacher conferences, the meetings required for special-education students and meetings related to disciplinary issues (the definition was much looser in the original bill)
  • Apply only to employers with 50 or more workers (the original bill proposed 10)
  • Give workers 18 hours of such leave a year, not the 40 originally proposed
  • Require employees to give a week’s notice for taking such leave (instead of the original three days)
  • Prorate the amount of leave for part-time workers
  • Allow both the employee to request or the employer to require that paid leave be used instead of unpaid
  • Permit employers with existing school leave policies to incorporate the law into those practices
  • Generally conform the bill to federal family leave law
  • Exclude seasonal workers and workers whose jobs are vital for health or safety

The House also gave final approval to Senate Bill 09-285, the bill that would include career and technical education programs in the proposed statewide dual enrollment plan, and to Senate Bill 09-291, the controversial plan to lower state school aid to districts that reduce their local property tax revenues.

The House also accepted Senate amendments and repassed House Bill 09-1250 on a 42-23 vote. The is the bill to allocated federal forest revenues among counties and school districts. The compromise reached in the Senate requires that in affected counties, 25 percent of the money would go to schools and 25 percent to counties, with the split of the remaining 50 percent decided by negotiations between the two sides. If agreement can’t be reached, the money sits in escrow.

Representatives also agreed with Senate changes and repassed House Bill 09-1312, the bill to allow the state treasurer to loan money to school districts for renewable energy projects, and House Bill 09-1243, which would create a dropout prevention program – funded with grants – in the Department of Education.