Kamala Harris has proposed as a Democratic presidential candidate to extend the school day to 6pm in an effort to accommodate the schedules of students and working parents.
Harris, who is a U.S. Senator from California, released her bill Wednesday. In a tweet Harris wrote, “I was raised by a single mother-I know first hand how stressful and costly it is to juggle work and school schedules. Justice for students and working families is on the ballot. My Family Friendly Schools Act will give parents more after-school opportunities for their children.”
I was raised by a single mother—I know firsthand how stressful and costly it is to juggle work and school schedules. Justice for students and working families is on the ballot. My Family Friendly Schools Act will give parents more after-school opportunities for their children. pic.twitter.com/1BmAy3e99s
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) November 6, 2019
Harris then outlined her Family Friendly Schools Act with four bullet points:
- Innovative pilot program for schools
- Provides before and after school activities for children during the workday
- Peace of mind for working parents
- Reduced cost of childcare
The plan includes beginning with a pilot program that will provide 500 schools, $5-million in funding each over five years. These schools will be mostly attended by children with low-income families. The goal of the longer schedule is to coordinate with the typical workday. Schools would not be opened on weekends, federal holidays or during emergencies.
When the pilot program ends the Education Department would issue a report on the results that would include the student performance, parental employment statistics, and teacher retention. The program would then be evaluated to see if it could expand. Additionally, the bill would authorize an additional $1.3 billion annually for 21st Century Community Learning Centers to allow up to 1.8 million more children to access summer programming.
A second non-federal entity must match 10 percent of the schools federal grant as an insurance policy when the federal grant funding ends.
The proposal is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, which said the bill would make sure teachers and other educational professionals will have respectful and fair compensation.
“With the vast majority of schools closing at or around 3 pm, two hours short of the standard full-time work day, parents are often left in a bind. Additionally, summer breaks present a challenge; in fact, three in four parents report at least some difficulty finding child care during that time period,” Harris wrote in a press release Wednesday. “While the misalignment of school and work schedules affects all families, low-income households often shoulder the greatest burden especially those with unpredictable or inflexible work schedules.”
The proposal has mixed reviews. Human Resources Manager Janelle Burns tweeted, “We deal with this every day. Single parents not just women trying to do right by their families and having to live to unrealistic expectations of “company attendance policy….Invest by caring.”
Vicki Long from Missouri said, “How about they just call it boarding schools and keep the kids 24/7 until the holidays.”
“I had kids to spend time with them,” said Beth Kolarik a mother whose youngest child is graduating high school in 2020.
“Why bother having kids if you plan to have the government raise them,” said Tracy Burns from California. “Plus what parent wants to send their child to a place where children run amok, are extremely disruptive or violent, and can get beaten to death like at Moreno Valley Middle School?”
“Absolutely absurd, completely unhealthy for kids and destructive to family life,” said Jill Simonian, a working mother from Los Angeles, California.
“By investing in before, and after school programming, summer enrichment and 21st Century Community Learning Centers, this legislation addresses a chronic and long-neglected problem: too many working parents can’t access affordable care for their kids during the workday,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.
Harris pitched in March a proposal to raise teachers salaries an average of $13,500. This plan would cost the federal government $315 billion over ten years.
“It isn’t enough to just say our teachers shape the future of our country, we should pay them like it,” Harris tweeted in March. “It’s past time we value and respect their work, compassion, and dedication to our kids.”
The Family Friendly Schools Act received support from the following organizations: American Federation of Teachers, Center for American Progress, CLASP, EdNavigator, First Focus, Institute for Educational Leadership, Main Street Alliance, National Association of Counties, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Summer Learning Association, National Women’s Law Center, and National League of Cities.