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VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES | Essay

Treat School Duty the Same as Jury Duty

February 10, 2001|TOBY MULLER | Toby Muller lives in Pasadena

It's encouraging to see education reform reemerge as a topic of public debate. And while talk is good, increased funding is better; and parental participation may be most important of all in fostering school success.

In my son's grade school, our involvement is strongly encouraged; in my daughter's co-op preschool, it is mandatory. My wife and I are fortunate to have the flexibility to volunteer at school a few hours during the week. Most parents don't.

The question is: Does our society value its educational system as much as it does its judicial system? And, if so, shouldn't employers be encouraged or even required to enable parents to be involved in their kids' schooling (whether volunteering in the classroom or meeting with teachers), the way workers are excused for jury service?

Anything we can do to reconnect parents and schools can only help improve academics, restore discipline and make schools more responsive to the community.

Such a plan shouldn't and needn't be an undue burden on employers: The time might be taken in lieu of sick days or as flex time. What's more, such scheduling flexibility would be an incentive to attract and hold valuable workers.

Of course, no one can make parents want to become involved in their kids' schools, but allowing those who do will at least help parental involvement become the norm rather the exception.

If our governor and president are really concerned with education, this proposal may be a way to start.

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