Californian Senator and Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris unveiled a new bill on Thursday allocating grants of up to five million dollars to school districts that stay open from 8 am to 6pm. The “Family Friendly Schools Act” will create a “pilot program to give schools resources to stay open during the entire work day throughout the school year,” focusing first on 500 elementary schools to study the program’s effect. Harris’ bill aims to help working class families, as she outlined in her press release.
“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. My bill provides an innovative solution that will help reduce the burden of child care on working families. It is time we modernize the school schedule to better meet the needs of our students and their families.”
This bill (co-sponsored by former candidate Kirsten Gillibrand and current candidate Michael Bennet) coincides with the Harris’ campaign plan to “heavily invest federal money into teacher pay” announced in March. The campaign said the average teacher in America would receive a $13,500 annual pay raise, and pay its $300 billion price tag by “strengthening the estate tax.” Bernie Sanders has also proposed an estate tax hike to 77% at the highest margin. Advocating for increased federal spending on public education does not set one apart in the democratic field, but proposing a bill like this does.
The average school day in America ends at 3 pm, and the bill does not specify activities or curriculum to fill the proposed extra three hours. It leaves that decision to each school district. To earn the grant, a school district must “collaborate with community partners to develop high-quality, culturally relevant, linguistically accessible, developmentally appropriate academic, athletic, or enrichment opportunities for students from at least 8 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday during the school year.” Extra work from teachers and staff will be volunteer-based, for which they will be “compensated fairly for the additional hours.” Schools must also stay open during parent-teacher conferences and other miscellaneous off days. Harris’ press release states that three in four parents report at least some difficulty finding child care during summer break periods, and the bill addresses this with a $1.3 billion annual grant program for “community learning centers to allow up to 1.8 million more children access to summer programming.”
The bill has been the subject of both praise and criticism on social media. Friday’s episode of The View featured a segment discussing the bill. “You’re letting them out early — all they’re doing is going home, playing video games, and going on their phones,” said 77 year old co-host Joy Behar. Whoopi Goldberg disagreed, saying “I think keeping a kid in school until 6:00 is like institutionalizing them because… a lot of these buildings do not have gymnasiums. A lot of these buildings do not have a place to have after school programs.” Vice published an article attacking the bill from the left: “Rather than reshaping society to accommodate the needs of workers, Harris’s plan is designed to keep more people working for longer, suiting the interests of their employers and using gestures towards community input as a smokescreen.” On Twitter, Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh tweeted the plan is “is both disturbing and revealing. Democrats are trying to replace the family with the State. That’s why they keep extending the amount of time kids spend in school.” Kamala Harris’ Press Secretary replied to this tweet, saying “This is literally just disinformation.”
Harris’ campaign releases this bill after polls have consistently put her at a disappointing fifth, which has caused the California Democrat to wonder if the country is ready for a woman of color to be president. She is one of six candidates to qualify for the December debate, granting her Saturday Night Live impersonator Maya Rudolph more screen time.
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