Week 3: Edudrama
By Liz McKay, Policy and Education Intern
January 28th, 2016
The first three weeks of the legislative session are coming to a close, and we have already seen bill proposals that have the potential to greatly impact the wellbeing of young people across the state.
Colorado Youth Matter has taken public supportive positions on bills that have a direct effect on the health of youth. One such bill that Colorado Youth Matter is supporting is HB-1002, the Parental Involvement Bill.
On January 27th, Representative Janet Buckner (D-Aurora) presented HB-1002 for the second time in front of the House education committee. This bill replicates a 2009 act that expired in 2014. The parental leave coalition, headed by 9to5 Colorado, has introduced this bill to get this law back on the books. If passed, the bill would grant unpaid time off for parents to attend limited school meetings related to their child’s behavior. It would cover things like parent-teacher conferences, dropout prevention or truancy meetings, special education service meetings, and the like. The bill passed the committee on a party line vote of 6-5, and will now continue on to the full House floor. If it passes, it is likely that it will again die in the Republican-controlled Senate. Last year, this coalition led the effort to pass a bill re-authorizing the parental leave law. That bill added the inclusion of achievement ceremonies, and would extend to cover parents of preschool-aged children. Although passed in the House, the Senate voted against it.
Parental support throughout a child’s education is crucial in setting young people up for future success. Not only is parental involvement linked to higher academic performance and reduced behavioral issues, but it also increases the a child’s odds of finishing high school. Studies also show that having a trusted adult present in their lives makes young people more likely to use effective birth control, lowering the risk of unwanted pregnancy and increasing chances of reaching their educational goals. HB-1002 would help ensure that all students receive this support throughout school, regardless of their parents’ job.
Education is important for parents too, especially young parents whose schooling may have been interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy. But finding affordable childcare poses a huge barrier for parents attempting to continue their education. Only 38% of teen mothers who have a child before the age of 18 will finish their high school diploma before the age of 22, and considering that maternal education is one of the most important factors in determining early childhood success, it’s crucial that parents have the necessary resources to support their return to school. HB-1050, sponsored by Representative Pettersen (D-Jefferson) and Senator Merrifield (D-El Paso), would establish a task force to address the needs of low income parents with young children, and would seek to reduce or eliminate barriers to childcare. This would be a great first step in addressing a problem that affects parents, regardless of age, across the state. The bill was heard by the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee, on the 26th, and advanced by a 7-6 vote.
Another bill that has been on our radar this week is The Pregnancy and Dropout Prevention Program. Originally passed in 1995, the bill was set to sunset this year, which means it would no longer be in effect unless legislation passed to extend it. In a hearing Tuesday, it was decided to not reauthorize the program. Colorado Youth Matter supports the Pregnancy and Dropout Prevention Program, and fought hard to keep it fully funded during the 2015 legislative session. Although the program was reauthorized last year, it received no funding. While we are disappointed with the loss of this great program, it’s reauthorization would have accomplished very little without the funding to support it.
That’s the hap at the cap for now, stay tuned for more updates on the Colorado legislative session, and how it could affect youth sexual health across the state!