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Sen. Kamala Harris introduces bill to extend school day by 3 hours

WASHINGTON (KTIV) – Presidential Candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., introduced a bill Wednesday that would lengthen the school day to better align with working parent’s schedules.

The California senator’s “Family Friendly Schools Act” proposes changing the school day to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., three hours longer than the typical student’s schedule.

Specifically, the legislation would give five-year grants of up to $5 million to school districts serving a high number of low-income families. School days typically start at 8 a.m. and this new bill would push the end of the average school day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in 500 schools.

According to the proposed bill, school administrators would work with community partners to fill that extra time with “high-quality, culturally relevant, linguistically accessible, developmentally appropriate academic, athletic, extracurricular, enrichment, community-based learning opportunities.” The bill leaves the scheduling of the day open to school administrators.

Teachers and faculty would not have to work additional hours unless they sign up for an extra shift, for which they would be compensated at the rate they get during normal school hours. But schools would not close for parent-teacher conferences, professional development or any other reason without offering free full-day “enrichment activities” for students.

The bill also looks to develop and implement evidence-based policies and practices for parent and family engagement to support working families.

“My mother raised my sister and me while working demanding, long hours,” said Sen. 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.”

During the grant period, Congress would evaluate survey responses from parents, teachers students and school administrators. These surveys would be used to determine their satisfaction with the program and come up with “best practices.”

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,” said Harris.

According to a press release from Sen. Harris’s office, the Family Friendly Schools Act received support from the American Federation of Teachers, the Institute for Educational Leadership, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Summer Learning Association and several other education-focused organizations.

In addition to Harris, the bill is sponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

To read the full bill, click here. 

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Dean Welte

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