An elementary school at which Family Friendly School policies are established shall collaborate with community partners to develop high-quality, culturally relevant, linguistically accessible, developmentally appropriate academic, athletic, extracurricular, enrichment, or community-based learning opportunities, for students from 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.
That’s the key paragraph in the text of the Family Friendly Schools Act as introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris, which intends to remedy the problems that poor families have in caring for their children after the school day ends, in the case of single parents or two-earner families, where there is no budget for formal aftercare or neighborhood babysitters, and no family members or neighbors to look after kids too young to take care of themselves after school. The bill is a grant/pilot-type program intended to be scaled afterwards.
Now, I voiced on twitter my skepticism of the program and the notion of a 10 hour school day, and, since this was in the form of a reply to someone with a large twitter following, I got replies from strangers along these lines:
Did you read the BILL?Attendance isn’t mandatory. It’s not an extension of the academic day. The enrichment offerings will be things the community chooses as appropriate for their kids,run by local nonprofits – stuff well-off kids already get after school. https://t.co/WzSzE8fynG
— (((antiantisemite))) (@Tristanshouts) November 8, 2019
1. Attendance isn’t mandatory.
2. Every well funded public & private school has a full roster of after school activities. Kids at underfunded schools deserve those same enriching opportunities.
3. Some kids have nowhere to go after school but to an empty house – this is for them
— (((antiantisemite))) (@Tristanshouts) November 8, 2019
It won’t be and it isn’t. It will be optional for families who can benefit from it. And likely to take the form of already-existing programs, which include recreational activities plus homework help if needed.
— Toni Hinton
But the bill does not say that the grants are meant to fund voluntary after-school care programs featuring homework help, optional enrichment programs, and recreational time. The bill funds programs in which learning opportunities are provided from 8 AM to 6 PM.
What’s more, the bill states that grant preference would be given to schools which propose
to restructure and expand the school day to better meet the needs of working families, students, and teachers rather than adding on to the existing, unchanged school schedule.
This sure looks to me like the intent is for a school to have its normal school day run from 8 AM to 6 PM for all students. Recreational time with optional homework help from 3 – 6 is not a “learning opportunity,” after all. And Harris’s fact sheet also speak repeatedly of “aligning the school day and the work day,” which, again, is not about providing free or sliding-scale afterschool programming but about normalizing a long school day.Now, the bill also promises that teachers shall not be required to work any more hours than is currently the case, except to the extent that they choose to do so, and aims for participating schools
to leverage community resources, such as nonprofit or government programs for children or interested stakeholders in the community, to provide academic, athletic, or enrichment activities during the additional school hours
and one presumes that as a matter of practicality, it would make sense for the teachers to work a “normal” day and then have the outside groups come in to provide their services, but, on the other hand, I could easily imagine that these nonprofit groups might prefer midday work hours. And if we’re dealing with teacher’s unions, there really isn’t much of an option to have volunteers come in and run an enrichment program if teachers have first dibs on the work hours, especially with respect to paraprofessionals (aides) who are paid by the hour for classtime only and who would be more than happy to add to their work hours.
As a side note, schools participating in this program would have to offer free daycare availability for any day other than federal holidays in which there is no school — that is, for winter break, spring break, and other school year vacation days.
Now, does Harris intend that kids will be doing scheduled activities of one sort or another for 10 hours per day? Or were my twitter-replies right at least with respect to the intention — that this is just optional afterschool programming for those who want is, and kids who have a granny waiting to feed them milk and cookies can continue with their routine unchanged? I don’t know. I think there’s a good chance that either of these could be true, because there are plenty of voices in support of the notion that kids should be in school for the same hours as parents are at work (without regard for what’s best for children’s well-being), and, at the same time, there’s an enormously irritating practice on the part of Senators/Congressmen of the party-not-in-power to propose legislation that they know isn’t going to go anywhere, purely as a means of making a statement about their wishes and policy preferences, without regard for whether the legislation is sufficiently well-drafted as to actually be viable.
So that’s my rant for the day.
Oh, and, for what it’s worth, it’s a good thing for schools to offer afterschool programing with fees on a sliding-scale basis. But to mandate that children be in school for 10 hours just because that’s how long adults spend at work/lunch break/commuting, is not looking out for the well-being of children, who, after all, are simply not small adults, but need unstructured time, and, where possible, do better with parents able to discern their needs — after school activities? Playtime? Alone time? Time developing friendships and independence? This is for families to determine, not the school.
Image: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ian Manzy, 610th Air Control Flight weapons technician, reads to children at Cummings Elementary School during Wacky Wednesday at Misawa Air Base, Japan, March 28, 2012. Wacky Wednesday is part of the school?s Read Across America 2012, which aims to promote reading to all ages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaleb Snay/Released) ; http://www.misawa.af.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2000165487/