SB 328 ‘is misaligned with the principle of local control and was vetoed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown who indicated that these types of decisions are best handled by the local community.’
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Sunday that will mandate a later morning start for middle and high schools students. With the sweep of a pen communities across the state lost control on how to best operate their school district. This bill with the motto, “Sleep to Excel,” was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown before he left office in 2018. Newsom however, sided with pediatricians and the PTA instead of the teachers union, and groups representing school boards and superintendents.
California will now become the first state in the nation to require later start times in response to medical research saying teens are sleep deprived. The author of SB 328, Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada-Flintridge) said teenagers’ biological clocks prevent them from going to sleep early and waking up early.
Former Governor Brown said the start times should remain a local district decision.
The new law will be implemented in the 2022-23, school year. It will require middle schools to begin no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools to start regular classes after 8:30 am. Rural districts are exempt because of bus scheduling challenges and also excludes “zero periods,” which are optional courses offered by some schools before the regular school day begins.
Newsom announced the approval of Senate Bill 328 without comment in the last batch among hundreds of bills he signed and vetoed on the final day for signing for legislation passed last month.
New law will ‘disproportionately burden students whose socioeconomic status is already a significant educational barrier’
Al Mijares, Orange County Superintendent of Schools said the later start time is not a solution for teenagers. “A multi-year study in the research journal SLEEP and findings from researchers at the UC Davis Sleep Laboratory challenge the argument that students would get persistent benefits from a shift in their school start time,” said Mijares in an email. “Not only would mandating a later start time across the board not have the desired effect, but it would also impose a hardship on too many working families. In fact, this law will disproportionately burden students whose socioeconomic status is already a significant educational barrier.”
Portantino stands by the 30-year study that led him to propose the bill.
“I’m over the moon that California has recognized the importance of science and will now put our children’s health and welfare at the forefront of the decision-making process. Generations of children will benefit from starting later in the morning as we know that test scores, attendance and graduation rates all improve after shifting to later start time. As a parent, I am also pleased that depression, sports injuries, suicidal thoughts and car accidents all decline as well. This is truly a special day for kids,” said Sen. Portantino.
The law does not respect parental decisions or consider the needs of local communities.
Two high school seniors in Riverside County who will not be affected by the bill which is slated to be implemented in 2022 said they prefer the early start times. “I would rather start early and get out earlier when we have more daylight,” said Taylor Krueger who excelled in competitive cheer. “I am also in cheer and we have practice at 5:30 p.m., I like to go home, change, eat, rest and have a break. It would be hard to get out of school later,” said Gwen James.
Representatives from the California School Boards Association who opposed the bill said the law does not respect parental decisions or consider the needs of local communities.
The California School Boards Association feels the research is inconclusive, but they know the impact on families is certain, especially to low-income families. “These children are already arriving early to school if their parents are commuting, are farmworkers, or work in construction, restaurants or retail. These students won’t be getting any more sleep, and the additional idle unsupervised time alone could put them in danger. Parents shouldn’t have to choose between keeping their jobs and ensuring the safety of their children,” said Mijares.
Chris Funk, Superintendent at East Side Union High School District wrote a commentary against the new law. “It is misaligned with the principle of local control and was vetoed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown who indicated that these types of decisions are best handled by the local community.”
Nancy Albarrán, Superintendent of San Jose Unified School District said in 2018 her district held a forum to consider the merits of moving to later start time in response to parents who were advocates for this change. “Our forum featured an Oxford-style debate led by students and allowed for questions and dialogue within our community. After debating the potential benefits and consequences of a shift to a later start time, our community concluded that keeping the current start time is a better option for our students and families.”