Because most U.S. schools’ days end around 3 p.m. and are closed upwards of 20 days during the academic year, working moms and dads, approximately 70 percent of all parents, might dish out thousands of dollars per year on after-school/school-break programs, babysitters or extracurriculars to keep kids busy until they return from work. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who’s also a presidential candidate, has proposed a bill that would change that, if passed into law.
Under her proposal, school would last from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., three hours longer than the average school day, and, beyond summer, only close for weekends, federal holidays and emergencies, she announced Wednesday, Nov. 6. Her reasoning: “aligning school and work schedules is an economic growth and child development strategy.”
While this might elicit groans from school-age kids and teachers alike, Mother Jones reports kids wouldn’t necessarily be stuck at desks for the extra hours. And teachers and administrators wouldn’t be mandated to take on extra hours; staffers would sign up to work more and would be compensated fairly.
Sen. Harris’ plan would implement a pilot program of expanded hours and days to about 500 schools across the country that serve a high proportion of low-income families. Each school would receive as much as $5 million over five years. After the five-year pilot, the Education Department would gather their findings in a report, documenting best practices alongside changes in parental employment, student performance and teacher retention rates. The goal would be to then implement a better system throughout the U.S.
The bill is intentionally vague to allow individual schools to determine how they can best benefit from the plan. Within the first year, schools would survey parents, teachers and community members to find a program that would work well for their specific institution.
Sen. Harris’ bill also requires schools to find private or non-federal public funding sources, such as state grants or help from local organizations, to match 10 percent of the federal grant. for the plan to continue long-term.
The introduction of the bill is separate from the 2020 Democratic hopeful’s Children’s Agenda, which includes her proposal to give all new parents six months of paid leave.
Though the implications of the bill are up in the air, we hope to see more working parent–focused proposals from Congress members—and presidential candidates.