Finally, someone in power noticed that public schools close 29 days a year and end two hours before the workday—a schedule that poses problems for working parents. In an attempt to address the issue, Senator Kamila Harris introduced a Senate bill yesterday called the Family Friendly Schools Act.
The bill is actually an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and will now be considered by a Senate committee, potentially followed by votes in the Senate and House. Here’s the gist.
The program: Elementary schools will receive grants of up to $5 million to partner with nonprofit or community-based childcare organizations to extend their hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on all weekdays throughout the school year.
Why it probably won’t help you: It’s a pilot program, geared toward 500 elementary schools for five years. Unless you have kids currently in pre-K through 4th grade who is in one of the chosen schools, you’re out of luck.
It’s vague by design: Schools get one year to feel out their community needs and can choose their own programming. Their partnerships must be with nonprofit or community-based organizations that provide “high-quality, culturally relevant, linguistically accessible, developmentally appropriate academic, athletic, or enrichment opportunities for students.”
What the unions say: Thumbs up! Mostly because public school teachers will not be staffing the programming (unless they want to, paid). “This legislation addresses a chronic and long-neglected problem,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Roughly one million mothers of elementary school children cut their hours at work because of a lack of affordable child care.”
The risk: Success is all in the details—including the quality of the programming schools do choose. Also, it’s a limited five-year pilot. Without further Congressional support, the funding can disappear.
Fun fact: Kamala Harris knows how to write a bill! It’s well-written and clear.
The verdict: Angels might be singing for future working parents. In the meantime, hang in there, moms and dads—and call your congresspeople.