Senator Kamala Harris has introduced a new bill that could mean more time at school for elementary students across the country. While it may not sound like every kid's idea of fun, it could be a serious relief for parents currently forced to stretch their resources in order to find care for children who are usually out of school by about 3 p.m.
The Family Friendly Schools Act would create a pilot program that provides schools the resources needed to stay open until 6 p.m., covering the entire standard workday throughout the school year and provide additional care on many days that schools are otherwise closed. In addition, it would invest over $1 billion in supporting summer learning programs.
Harris says the proposed legislation would not increase the number of hours that teachers or staff have to work unless these individuals choose to work extra hours.
For Harris, the legislation is personal: "My mother raised my sister and me while working demanding, long hours… 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."
The bill is particularly aimed at offering safe care options for low-income families who cannot afford to pay for afterschool childcare. The program would award five-year grants of up to $5 million to districts that have a large number of students in the low-income bracket.
"My bill provides an innovative solution that will help reduce the burden of child care on working families," Harris wrote in a statement.
She has also made education a pillar of her presidential campaign, proposing a plan to spend $315 billion to increase teacher salaries over the next ten years.
Co-sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Gillibrand sent Cheddar a statement Thursday reading in part, "This would provide some much-needed relief for many families and the peace of mind that their children will be somewhere safe.”
“This voluntary program would help local school districts study and explore ways to help schools keep their facilities open throughout the work day,” Brown told Cheddar “for academic, athletic, or enrichment activities without forcing teachers to work longer hours or work for less pay.”
The issue of education has rarely seen the debate stage, but candidates like Harris, as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro have touted their plans on the campaign trail.