Should the school day be as long as the work day? | The Tylt
Should the school day be as long as the work day?
Senator Harris' bill will create a pilot program in 500 schools that will enable local governments to find ways to extend the school day that fits their communities. The bill is endorsed by the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the largest teacher's union in the United States.
Here's how Harris says the bill will help the average American:
Throughout the United States, current school schedules make life harder for working families. Research shows that schools are shut down for an average of 29 days throughout the school year. With the vast majority of schools closing at or around 3 pm, two hours short of the standard full-time work day, parents are often left in a bind. Additionally, summer breaks present a challenge; in fact, three in four parents report at least some difficulty finding child care during that time period.
The economic cost of this problem is substantial. Schools are closed for two weeks longer than the typical American with paid leave has in paid holidays and vacation. Further, 39 percent of all workers, and 80 percent of low-wage workers, lack access to any paid vacation time. This places a financial burden on parents and caregivers to either pay for additional child care or take leave without pay to care for their child. While the misalignment of school and work schedules affects all families, low-income households often shoulder the greatest burden especially those with unpredictable or inflexible work schedules.
Critics say there are a lot of ways to address the issue of how expensive childcare is without making the school day longer. Children's lives are already over-structured, to begin with; this proposal would add another three hours where kids can't be kids. The time students spend time on their own is valuable too—that's how kids learn how to be independent and navigate the world on their own.
You don't have to go full free-range parent to find this trend worrisome. Kids' free time is already shrinking, being consumed by longer hours of instruction, after-school care, and other scheduled activities. Unstructured recess time is on the decline, contrary to pediatricians' recommendation, and where recess persists, it is often hedged into inactivity by onerous rules and heavy homework loads. And parents are increasingly subject to scrutiny, including from law enforcement, for statistically safe behavior that was considered perfectly normal a decade or two ago, like leaving a child in the car for five minutes while running into a store or letting them play at a park alone. Making the school day 10 hours long is a huge jump down this road whose destination we frankly do not know.