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We talk a lot about the astronomical cost of day care for infants and pre-schoolers in America, but for many families, the childcare crisis doesn't end when children start elementary school—the after school care crisis is very real and it is hurting families. The 2- or 3-hour gap between the end of the school day and the end of the work day, combined with a lack of after school programs, puts parents in tough positions: Mothers can end up working less than they need to, or feel forced to leave their children unsupervised during these gap hours.
Now, presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris has put forth a plan that protects vulnerable kids. She wants to extend the school day. Harris wants to award five-year grants of up to $5 million total to school districts 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, with no closures except for Federal holidays, weekends, and emergencies."
Basically, she wants to see 500 schools (to start) extend the school day to 6 o'clock.
"I was raised by a single mother—I know firsthand how stressful and costly it is to juggle work and school schedules. Justice for students and working families is on the ballot. My Family Friendly Schools Act will give parents more after-school opportunities for their children," Harris announced on Twitter.
I was raised by a single mother—I know firsthand how stressful and costly it is to juggle work and school schedules. Justice for students and working families is on the ballot. My Family Friendly Schools Act will give parents more after-school opportunities for their children. pic.twitter.com/1BmAy3e99s
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) November 6, 2019
Harris' plan was first reported by Kara Voght for Mother Jones, which is fitting, because Voght brought attention to this national crisis last year when she wrote a viral piece for The Atlantic titled "Why does the school day end two hours before the workday?"
Harris' bill brings up a lot of the same issues Voght cited in her reporting, including the fact that "fewer than 1⁄2 of elementary schools and fewer than 1⁄3 of low-income schools offer before- and after-school care," and that "misaligned school schedules cost the United States economy $55,000,000,000 in lost productivity annually."
"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," Harris said in a press release.
Time will tell if Harris' bill will create change, but no matter what happens with the bill or her campaign for the Oval Office, we are glad America is talking about the after school care crunch.
Maybe making the school day longer wouldn't work in every community, but making parents' workdays (and lives) more flexible could make the after school care gap way less stressful.