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Senator Anthony Portantino. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)
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Later School Start Time Bill Becomes Law Despite Opposition From Teachers And School Districts

Middle schools will start at 8 AM, while high schools cannot start earlier than 8:30 AM.

By Evan Symon, October 16, 2019 6:17 am

Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 328 into law on Monday, mandating that schools will open later in the morning.

Under SB 328, middle schools across California will have, at their earliest, an 8 AM start time. Meanwhile, high schools are set at 8:30 AM or later. Due to their unique needs, rural school districts will be exempt from the bill, as will programs and voluntary courses that take place before the bell in the morning.

Sen. Anthony Portantino (D- La Canada Flintridge) authored the bill. He has been a long-time advocate of installing a later start times at schools citing that teenagers have a different biological clock than adults, and that a later start time would be better for their health and their education. The Senator has also frequently brought up ‘sleep deprivation’ of teenage students as a factor in some low test scores.

Sen. Portantino has also authored earlier versions of the bill, including SB 328 from the previous session which was vetoed by then-Governor Jerry Brown.

“Today, Governor Newsom displayed a heartwarming and discerning understanding of the importance of objective research and exercised strong leadership as he put our children’s health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change,” Sen. Portantino said after the signing. “Generations of children will come to appreciate this historic day and our Governor for taking bold action.”

Governor Gavin Newsom (Katy Grimes for California Globe)

Governor Newsom also released a statement saying why he signed the bill.

“The science shows that teenage students who start their day later increase their academic performance, attendance, and overall health,” said Governor Newsom. “Importantly, the law allows three years for schools and school districts to plan and implement these changes.”

SB 328 was bitterly fought in both houses, with Senators and Assembly members generally voting ‘no’ in areas with strong teachers unions or if they are located in more rural areas. 

Much of the opposition came from teachers groups and school systems, who said that mandating a time wouldn’t always be the best option in some districts. One often cited reason was that parents would now be hit by extra childcare costs because all of the different time changes.

The Globe talked with former high school principal Mallory Martin about what this change meant from a single schools view.

“It isn’t great,” began Martin. “You’re going to have school buses rushing around in rush hour. High schools are 8:30 now, so that’s a lot of buses and a lot of teenagers driving into school in urban and suburban areas where traffic is heaviest. Buses constantly stop, teenagers aren’t the best drivers, and other traffic makes it all slow. It won’t be pretty.”

“We also have to worry now about kids leaving after their parents leave for work and later release times, which means a little bit of an overhaul of after school programs. My high school started at 7:45 sharp. That means an entire period needing to be added at the end of the day.”

“And then look at all the tiny factors, like rural schools having more after school time devoted to things like athletics or competitions. We may see a surge of them winning after 2022. There’s the health of teachers who usually prefer to wake up earlier. There’s a lot there.”

“This isn’t being afraid of change. It’s change doing more harm than good.”

Those opposing the bill have also pointed to former Governor Brown’s reason for the 2018 veto. Brown said that school decisions are best held locally, and that by having the state control the times, it ignored what was best for the district.

SB 328 is due to come into effect beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. The signing of SB 328 also marks the first time that a state has instituted a mandatory later school start time in the entire country.

Evan Symon

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at evan@californiaglobe.com.
Evan Symon
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