WASHINGTON (WMTV) -- California Senator Kamala Harris says the school day is too short. On Wednesday, the presidential hopeful unveiled new legislation aimed at extending school days so they are more in line with a typical workday.
“My mother raised my sister and me while working demanding, long hours,” Harris said. “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.”
Harris argues the standard school schedule currently creates too many problems for families. She points out that, at many schools, students are let out around 3 p.m., or hours before many of their parents are off work. Parents not only have to fill that time, she says, they also have to worry about all of the days off the kids have.
In addition to summer vacation, her office claims, on average, schools are closed 29 days a year. Those are days parents have to find someone to care for their kids. And, just staying home with them isn’t an option, Harris says, because those parents aren’t likely to get that much time off of work.
Her proposal, dubbed the Family Friendly Schools Act, would help schools extend their days so they were more in line with a standard work shift and spend $1 billion in summer learning programs. Harris says the measure, too, would not require teachers to work longer hours or for less pay.
It would include five-year grants for elementary schools that serve a high number of low-income families to work with the community to create programs that can keep students occupied from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and prevent closings, except for holidays, weekends, and emergencies. Schools getting the grants wouldn’t be allowed to close for parent-teacher conferences or other professional development days without coming up with alternative activities for the students.
The districts also cannot increase the number of hours teachers and staff have to work without their consent and stipulates they must be paid for the extra time.
The bill also directs the Dept. of Eduacation to develop a report outlining the lessons learned from the five-year programs and adds $1.3 billion per year to fund 21st Century Community Learning Centers.