Kamala Harris proposes extending school hours to match work day

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WASHINGTON -- Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a bill Wednesday that aims to lengthen the number of hours schools stay open to better align with their parents' work schedules.

The bill, called the Family Friendly Schools Act, would incentive campuses to provide programs that last through the typical work day by awarding them five-year grants of up to $5 million for after-school programs. The bill also calls for investing more than $1 billion in summer learning programs to address similar issues.

“My mother raised my sister and me while working demanding, long hours,” Harris said. “So, I know firsthand that, for many working parents, juggling between school schedules and work schedules is a common cause of stress and financial hardship."

The grants, which would be funneled toward schools that serve a high number of low-income families, could be used for academic, athletic, arts and other enrichment activities offered until 6 p.m., when more working parents could make pickup without relying on expensive childcare.

Here in San Diego, some working parents think Harris is on the right track with the bill.

"If they implement the after school hours or classes I think it would be great for us because our student is going to be more productive in his classes and for us, we are going to be more productive for society," said Byron Cuevas.

The programs would partner schools with community organizations and would not increase the amount of time teachers and staff had to work unless they chose to and could be compensated for the additional hours, Harris' office said.

The idea has earned plaudits from the American Federation of Teachers and Center for American Progress.

Philip Wegmann, a Real Clear Politics reporter and Washington Examiner commentary writer, told FOX Business the bill might prove unpopular with some parents who see it as narrowing their choices for childcare.

“I think what Harris is doing here is she's trying to confront a reality of the modern workforce where a lot of families can't get by with a single breadwinner," Wegmann said. "But I think that some voters are going to say, 'We want agency here. We want to decide where our kids go after school, not the government.'"

On "The View" Thursday, co-host Whoopi Goldberg called the proposal a version of "institutionalizing" kids because it would keep them cooped up inside in some communities. "A lot of these buildings do not have gymnasiums," Goldberg said. "A lot of these buildings do not have a place to have after school programs."

Harris' office told Fox News the bill does not mandate the students keep kids at school during the extended hours, simply requires them to stay open and implement the programs.

The senator described the first round of grants as a "pilot program" which would be analyzed by the Department of Education for effectiveness and further policy decisions.

The bill is co-sponsored by fellow Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Blumenthal, Jeff Merkley and Sherrod Brown.

Harris is currently competing in the Democratic presidential primary. 

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