US Senator and presidential hopeful Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Family Friendly Schools Act Wednesday, calling for children’s school days to align with parents’ workdays to better support working families. The bill would establish a pilot program in which 500 elementary schools receive no more than $5,000,000 per school district to implement the program.
Instead of increasing the amount of work time of school staff, the proposal calls for school staff to volunteer and be compensated at the same rate or higher than the school staff earns during regular school hours. The after-school programming shall be collaborative with “community partners to develop high quality, culturally relevant, linguistically accessible, developmentally appropriate academic, athletic, extracurricular, enrichment or community-based learning opportunities.” The expanded school day would be a minimum from 8 AM – 6 PM Monday through Friday with closures only during federal holidays, weekends and weather emergencies that would endanger students.
“My mother raised my sister and me while working demanding, long hours,” said Harris. “So, I know firsthand that, for many working parents, juggling between school schedules and work schedules is a common cause of stress and financial hardship. But, this does not have to be the case. My bill provides an innovative solution that will help reduce the burden of childcare on working families. It is time we modernize the school schedule to better meet the needs of our students and their families.”
Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) cosponsored the bill.
Criticisms include that additional school time creates further structuring and institutionalization of children’s lives and less time with their families.