DENVER: On March 22, 2012, Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill that will ensure that the Colorado pupil enrollment count day does not conflict with religious holidays. Attending the signing ceremony were ADL Senior Associate Director Joyce Rubin and ADL Board Member Gary Rand.
Three times in the past few years, the October 1 count day has fallen on a major Jewish holiday. In 2006, the count day conflicted with Yom Kippur. In 2008 and 2011, it conflicted with Rosh Hashanah. The new law, sponsored by Representative Sal Pace and Senator Linda Newell, will move the count day to avoid such conflicts in the future.
Public schools count their students each fall and report their enrollment numbers to the state to determine the amount of state funding each school will receive.
School administrators commonly send letters home to families to encourage attendance on the count day. Parents are not usually informed that there is a mechanism in place to count students who are absent on the count day itself but who attend school in the days immediately before and after the count day. Rather, parents are strongly encouraged to avoid any absences on the count day.
In years when the count day fell on a holiday, Jewish parents who received such notices from their children’s schools often reacted with confusion and concern. They felt pressured to choose between religious observance and support of their children’s schools, and they were upset that a Jewish holiday was the day identified as the count day.
The only witness at the hearings on this bill was ADL Senior Associate Director Joyce Rubin. She explained to the legislators the importance of the holidays to Jewish parents and told the legislators about the many complaints ADL has received from parents in years when the count day conflicts with a holiday. The bill, which was also supported by the Jewish Community Relations Council, passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate.