Why don’t school schedules align with work schedules? It’s a question working parents ask themselves all the time, and one examined in a new report from the Center for American Progress.
What the report found was that most schools close “several hours” before parents would normally expect to finish working; that most schools are closed about 29 workdays throughout the school year; and that most important school events, such as parent-teacher conferences, are scheduled during common work hours (weekdays).
The center found that misaligned school and work schedules cost the U.S. economy roughly $55 billion in lost productivity every year. In a detail that won’t come as a shock to working parents, “surprise” days off due to inclement weather or health policies cost parents a lot of lost work time, especially as about 40 percent of working parents have no paid time off.
The report suggests that schools should stay open longer for after-school programs, arguing that it wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive. The disparity in schedules hits low-income school districts the hardest, and one solution would be pilot programs that promote a nine-to-five school schedule and pay teachers extra for working longer hours.
The report concludes by suggesting that we begin to focus on family-centered schools: those that have hours from 8:30 to 5:30, that are only closed on major holidays, and that eliminate workday parent-teacher conferences and encourage more communication by phone, text, or email. To parents, these recommendations will seem long overdue. So why are we still pretending that most parents — mothers, in particular — don’t work?