DENVER (CBS4) – Democratic state lawmakers want to expand the reasons parents can get to leave work and attend events at their children’s school. A proposal at the Capitol could help guarantee family members won’t be penalized for attending certain activities for their children.

A law passed five years ago — and set to expire in September — requires employers to allow parents to take up to 18 hours of unpaid leave a year for certain school events. The new bill expands what those events are.

Opponents say the expansion would include far more than what goes on in the classroom.

“I see kids express a tremendous amount of joy when they see their family member show up at their school,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.

Fields says children are not only happy when their parents are involved in their school, but they’re more likely to succeed.

“When you have schools, family and business and community groups working together to support learning of children, then the children do better,” Fields said.

Fields and Rep. John Buckner, D-Aurora, asked lawmakers to expand the law that allows parents to take unpaid leave for parent teacher conferences and disciplinary issues to include other activities that contribute to the child’s academic progress.

“I see firsthand the impact on my students when their parents are able to be present at school events,” school social worker Ellen Weber said to lawmakers at the Capitol.

Weber says some parents fear repercussions at work for taking time off.

“Both of his guardians privately expressed concern for their ability to continue to show up at school events due to missing work, even though circumstances necessitated it,” Weber told the lawmakers.

“We are definitely concerned about the expansion of the activities that this bill proposes,” Loren Furman with the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry said.

Opponents, including business groups, say the expansion could encompass everything from sports events to field trips to fairs.

“There is no data showing that employers are denying the leave right now,” Furman said.

Supporters admit they also haven’t heard from parents complaining they couldn’t get the time off. Still, the bill passed out of committee Monday, but was amended to include academic achievement ceremonies — not any school activity.

The legislation also includes time off for preschool activities and requires schools to post the law on their websites and send a notice to parents about it.

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