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Kamala Harris’ Extended-School-Day, Childcare Legislation

November 7, 2019

US senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris has introduced a bill to extend the elementary school day so that it better aligns with the traditonal, 9-to-5 workday in the name of helping low-income parents with child care.

The aim is to increase the length of the elementary school day “at least 8 am to 6 pm (or different hours if determined appropriate due to the needs of the community) Monday through Friday during the school year.” The bill would offer grants for up to $5M over five years to school districts to work the transformation. The bill also proposes support for summer programs (Harris proposes $1.3B annually for the summer programs.)

Harris’ bill does not require teachers to work longer school days. It does, however, presume that those elementary schools will be a stable, dependable, community presence. From the bill:

An elementary school at which Family Friendly School policies are established shall not close throughout the school year, except for on Federal holidays, weekends, and during weather emergencies and other emergencies that would make it a safety liability for children to be at school. Specifically, each elementary school at which Family Friendly School policies are established may not close for parent-teacher conferences, professional development, or for any other reason without offering full day enrichment activities free of charge for students.

And therein lies the disruptive-ed-reform rub.

Harris’ bill presumes that the associated elementary schools are a stable presence in low-income communities. Not so. America is well into the era of damning schools with low test grades to closure, and of turning commuity schools into “choice” schools (which means that the schools are not only less connected if not divorced from any community but also that they may well be operated by a remote, third-party entity from the community). So, to make low-income parents even more dependent upon elementary schools that could be shuttered for low test scores, or because a charter operator mismanages public funds, it a snowballed catastrophe in the making: If a school suddenly closes, not only are parents out of a school; they are also simultaneously out of a childcare option.

If Harris wants America’s elementary schools to offer child care, she should first introduce legislation to ensure that those schools will not be shuttered as casualties to market-based ed reform. A good start (indeed, a biggie) would involve killing the grading of schools using student test scores. Then should come assuring that the participating schools have a mechanism in place to answer to the public for any and all public money received, and excluding schools operated by third parties that are not directly accountable to the public (i.e., closed meetings and closed books).

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Kamala Harris

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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3 Comments
  1. Karla permalink

    So true!!

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Thanks for this overview of a half baked idea. Harris seems to think that schools are properly regarded as all purpose social service agencies with no obvious purpose other than providing child care to families who have day jobs. The arrogance is amazing. Our community based schools have so called wrap around services,,,all provided by separate contractors who are not exclusively funded by the school district. Not every service is offered daily as Harris seems to assume is easy to do and efficient.

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