Watch CBS News

Proposal would give Pennsylvania parents time off to volunteer in schools

PA lawmakers working to require employers to give employee parental leave
PA lawmakers working to require employers to give employee parental leave 02:10

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) -- Lots of parents say they want to volunteer in their children's schools. Not as many parents actually manage to do it. Why the discrepancy? 

"It always goes back to work" obligations, said June Popov, a parent of two children and active volunteer at the Pennsylvania STEAM Academy, a public elementary charter school in Harrisburg. "I feel like based on my experience, most of the parents want to participate, and they want to be involved with the school." 

"STEAM" stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. 

Popov said some parents even sign up to volunteer, only to back out later because of work conflicts. 

"Even though you can see the parents want to be involved, they don't have the flexibility to be involved," said Lindsey Oleniacz, mother of a kindergarten student and the school's PTA president. 

Two state representatives – Donna Bullock and Elizabeth Fiedler, both Philadelphia-area Democrats – want to require employers to allow employees to take up to eight hours of unpaid leave annually to volunteer or attend parent-teacher meetings at their children's schools. Parents of students with individualized education programs, or IEPs – which common for children who have special needs – would get an additional four hours. 

"If we learned anything during the pandemic, it's so important for ... working parents to be able to be a part of their children's school and education," Bullock said. 

Bullock said the unpaid leave should be manageable for employers, and she said Pennsylvania would join about 10 other states that have already implemented similar ideas. The full details, in the form of legislative text, aren't yet finalized. 

"We appreciate the intent of this legislation and are actively tracking and analyzing it and similar proposals," said Jon Anzur, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, a pro-business lobby. "However, we have not taken an official position on it at this time." 

Popov, Oleniacz and school leaders said parent volunteers are more than simply extra hands to help teachers. 

"We want the kids to be able to see that the parents like coming to school," Oleniacz said. "So if the kids see that the parents like coming and being involved, it gives the kids more of a push to be involved in school." 

"The home and school connection is so critical to us," said Jennifer Morrison, Pennsylvania STEAM Academy's principal and CEO. "We want to be able to have that connection so that when we have troubles or when we have successes, we know the parents are on our team, and they know what's happening in our classrooms."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.