Kamala Harris Wants To Extend The School Day To Help Working Parents

The senator and presidential hopeful introduced a bill to fund programs allowing kids to stay at schools until 6 p.m.

California Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced a bill on Tuesday seeking to have schools extend programming for students from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays so that parents don’t have to scramble to find childcare they can afford during those traditional work hours.

The “Family Friendly Schools Act” would create a pilot program distributing up to $5 million in funding to 500 elementary schools over five years to provide “enrichment” activities to students that extend past the normal school hours. It would prioritize schools with “the greatest need,” including those whose students have high numbers of single parents who work, have two working parents or parents working irregular schedules.

The bill offered by the presidential candidate would also provide an additional $1.3 billion in funding to states to divvy among local groups that provide summer programs for low-income students.

After the five-year pilot period, the Department of Education would publish a report on lessons learned from the program.

“The misalignment between school and work schedules puts working families through unnecessary financial stress ― a burden we know is disproportionately shouldered by Black and Latinx families and families with low incomes,” Catherine Brown, an education expert at liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said in a release from Harris’ office.

The bill is also backed by the American Federation of Teachers union and the National Women’s Law Center.

Most public schools close around 3 p.m. in the U.S. — hours before the standard workday ends. Meanwhile, about 44% of public elementary schools had no formal after-school program available for students, according to a 2009 Department of Education report.

Last month, the senator’s home state of California became the first to mandate later school start times in an effort to support teen students, who perform better when they can get more sleep, research has shown.

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