Sen. Kamala Harris introduces bill to provide grants for longer school days

Nov. 7 (UPI) — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., introduced a bill that would award grants to schools that stay open for longer hours and close fewer days to closer fit the schedules of working parents.

Harris said the legislation would award five-year grants of up to $5 million to school districts that commit to developing academic, athletic or enrichment programs from at least 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at elementary schools serving a high number of low-income families. The schools would also have no closures during the school year except for federal holidays, weekends and emergencies.

It would require that schools not close for parent-teacher conferences, professional development or any other reason without offering alternative activities for the full day free of charge for students.

Additionally, schools must not increase the amount of time teachers and staff have to work unless they choose to work additional hours and are compensated fairly.

“With the vast majority of schools closing at or around 3 p.m., two hours short of the standard full-time workday, parents are often left in a bind,” Harris said. “Additionally, summer breaks present a challenge; in fact, three in four parents report at least some difficulty finding childcare during that time period.”

The bill would provide an additional $1.3 billion in annual funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers to allow up to 1.8 million children to access additional summer programming.

At the end of the five-year grant period, the Department of Education would be required to publish a report on lessons learned from the pilot program, including approaches to align school and work schedules as well as changes in parental employment rates, student performance and teacher retention.