HD55 - Study of Employee Leave for School Service
In 1991, Governor L. Douglas Wilder initiated a state policy permitting state employees to receive paid leave to enable them to become more active in their local schools. This education reform initiative recognizes the importance of parental involvement in the education of children, focusing on improving student performance through increased parental commitment.
The 1992 General Assembly approved House Joint Resolution 230, sponsored by The Honorable Linda T. Puller, Member, Virginia House of Delegates (Fairfax). This resolution requested the Virginia Department of Education "to study parental leave time to promote parental involvement and for service in the public schools."
Research reveals that parent involvement in their children's education relates to improved student attendance, increased student academic achievement, and improved student behaviors and homework habits. Further, students and parents tend to develop more positive attitudes toward school. Finally, communication between the parent and the child and between parent and the school improves.
Although there are many successful programs in schools, most parents express a desire to increase their involvement in their child's education. Many parents cite the demands of work and family responsibilities as sources of interference with their ability to become involved in their child's schooling. Other parents do not view themselves as competent participants in education. Some parents indicate that educators do little to involve them in schooling, and frequently do not respond to the scheduling issues affecting working parents.
Corporate response to family issues, including employee involvement in schools, has demonstrated a positive impact on the businesses. Many employers report that reduced absenteeism, turnover and tardiness and increased morale, loyalty, and productivity are results of introducing family-sensitive personnel policies.
Several blue-ribbon education reform groups have directed attention to issues associated with parental involvement in education. In Virginia, the Governor's Advisory Committee on Workforce Virginia 2000: A Partnership for Excellence (1991) and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Education Reform Initiative (1991) both speak to the value of employer support for programs that encourage parents to become involved in their children's schooling.
Governor Wilder's policy encouraging state employee activity in the schools provides eight hours of paid leave time each year. Virginia's policy is unique, as most employers do not have a specific policy supporting school involvement.
The Department of Education study team examined the issues associated with parental leave for school service presented in the study resolution. These include: the impact of parental involvement and volunteerism in education; models of parental involvement; factors influencing employee leave for school service, from the perspectives of business, school, and parent; models of employee leave for school activities; and school business-partnerships. The team reviewed recent research on parental involvement and volunteerism, conducted focus groups with parents, educators and business leaders, examined volunteerism data and surveyed members of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce regarding employee leave for school service.
Focus group analysis revealed that educators, parents, and business leaders in Virginia value parental involvement in education. Parents and other volunteers extend school resources. The focus group participants offered numerous examples of innovative methods for involving parents and community volunteers in use by many schools throughout the Commonwealth. Data analysis reveals there is great diversity in the nature and extent of school volunteer programs in Virginia. Effective parent and volunteer programs require organization and allocation of staff resources.
Educators, parents, and business leaders in focus groups identified many barriers to effective parental involvement in education. These include parent work schedules, staff time and resources, and educator and parent attitudes.
Analysis of the research and the survey of members of the state Chamber of Commerce revealed that businesses use a variety of written and unwritten policies to provide parents with time to participate in school activities. Focus group analysis confirmed the trend noted in the research that employee involvement is highest when there is a commitment from the business leadership.
Focus group analysis and the survey of employers revealed that Virginia employers believe that the government should not mandate leave for school service. Many parent and educator participants -in focus group echoed this sentiment.
A number of businesses demonstrate their commitment to education through active participation in school-business partnerships. The Virginia Business Education Partnership Program, created by the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Office of Volunteerism and the Virginia state Chamber of Commerce, is providing leadership in the development of such partnerships.
The Department of Education report, as requested by House Joint Resolution 230, also presents some effective practices of employee leave, parental involvement, and school-business partnerships. This report provides information for parents, schools, or businesses that are beginning or revising initiatives in these areas.
The Department of Education concludes that the Commonwealth should continue its efforts to expand parent and volunteer involvement in public schools, through the actions of educators, employers and parents. Provision of leave to employees to provide services to school and participate in school activities facilitates such parental and volunteer involvement. Specifically, the Department following recommendations:
• Educators should recognize the importance of parental involvement in public education through parent-responsive school policies. These may include accommodating parent work schedules in establishing conferences and meetings, establishing formal parent education/volunteer programs, and heightening educator awareness of the needs of non-traditional and non-middle class families.
• Virginia educators should capitalize on the resources available to schools through volunteers. Schools should assign personnel with the responsibilities associated with administration of a volunteer program.
• Employers are encouraged to demonstrate their commitment to public education by recognizing the need for employees to have time to participate in local school affairs. This commitment should be articulated by business leadership.
• The Commonwealth should not mandate employee leave for school service for private employers.
• The Virginia Business-Education partnership Program should continue its efforts to develop exemplary school-business partnerships in the Commonwealth.
• The Office of Volunteerism should expand its resource library to include information on employee leave policies that promote parental involvement in schools.