Kamala Harris Has A Plan To Extend School Hours To Match The Workday

by Christina Marfice
Scott Olson/Getty

According to Kamala Harris, “aligning school and work schedules is an economic growth and child development strategy”

Any working parent knows that when your work schedule doesn’t match the school day schedule, it creates some logistical problems. And while the standard work schedule ends at 5 or 6 p.m., school days typically wrap up several hours earlier, around 3 p.m., so it’s all too often that the schedules don’t match, creating a burden for working families everywhere. Presidential candidate Kamala Harris wants to address that.

Harris plans to introduce a bill that would provide federal grant funding to schools to help them increase their hours to better match the standard work day, as well as stay open Monday through Friday except for federal holidays, which means no more days off for professional development or parent-teacher conferences. The grant money should be used by schools to create “high-quality, culturally relevant, linguistically accessible, developmentally appropriate academic, athletic, or enrichment opportunities for students.”

If that sounds vague, it’s on purpose. Under Harris’ proposed bill, schools would spend the first year of this new program conducting surveys of parents, teachers, and community partners to help decide what kind of solution would be best for that particular community. That means the programs will vary from school district to school district.

Districts are also required to find matching funds that equal 10 percent of the federal grant money they receive. This is designed to help the new programs remain sustainable if and when federal grant money for them runs out.

There are still a lot of questions about what this bill would look like in practice, and that’s because so many of the details are left up to school districts to iron out. But it’s not necessarily about keeping kids in school for longer each day. It sounds more like a more robust after-school enrichment program, like what already exists in a lot of school districts nationwide. Funding for those programs can be hard to come by, especially in poorer school districts, and this bill would help address that.

Harris also made sure the proposed bill won’t put more pressure on teachers, who are already underpaid for the work they do. One requirement of the new programs is they can’t require teachers to put in more hours unless they volunteer to take on the extra work and get fairly compensated for it.

Harris may not have the perfect solution to the burden of childcare costs and mismatched schedules for working parents, but it’s still good to see politicians working on it. Because, as any working parent knows, this is a real and major need for so many families.