My five-year-old son was performing at his school’s talent quest last year. He was getting up and telling jokes, to an audience of hundreds. Unfortunately, I had a work commitment that day, and I didn’t feel I could say to my boss, “Hey, I actually want to go to my son’s school and watch him tell jokes instead.”
It’s just one of those sacrifices you make as a working parent. So much goes on inside school hours – sports days, open days, presentations. If you’re your own boss, or you’re in a particularly family-friendly workplace, you might be okay. But otherwise, it’s hard to justify prioritising school activities over work, except on very important occasions. You miss stuff. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking.
Well, imagine you were expected to take off three days a year to go along to things at your kid’s school. To accompany them on school excursions, or to help out in the classroom, or, maybe, to watch them get up and tell jokes at their talent quest. Imagine those three days were a legal right, and they were paid.
That's the basis of a bill that's just been introduced in California. In that state, parents, grandparents and guardians already have the right to take off five days a year - unpaid - for school activities and school-related emergencies. But making three days of it paid would see a lot more parents using it.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto says children whose parents are involved at school get better marks and are less likely to get in trouble.
"Being involved in your child’s education shouldn’t be limited by your family’s income, and it shouldn’t come down to a choice between meeting with a teacher or volunteering in the classroom, versus paying the bills," Gatto says. "We must stop passively bemoaning the state of our schools, and do something to engage families in the educational process and the school community."