California Is First State To Require Later School Start Times

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE, CA — California will be the first state in the country to push back start times at most middle schools and high schools thanks to a new bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday.

The proposal from State Senator Anthony J. Portantino, a Democrat from La Canada Flintridge, was designed to improve educational outcomes by giving students more sleep, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Under the new law, middle schools will start no earlier than 8 a.m., and high schools will begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., excluding some rural schools and a “zero period” offered before the start of the regular school day. The law will go into effect no later than July 1, 2021.

“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,” Portantino said.

Portantino said the law was written based on three decades of studies on teen health, sleep patterns and brain chemistry, adding research indicated when the school day starts later, children perform better academically and are significantly healthier.

“Teenagers in this country are sleep-deprived,” said Assemblyman Todd Gloria, a Democrat from San Diego. “It is a public health epidemic, and according to conclusive medical research, the primary cause of this epidemic is the early school start times that are not aligned with biological sleep needs of adolescent children.”

Most public schools in California will need to delay their start times under the new law, according to a legislative analysis obtained by Huffington Post. About half of schools will need to move their start times by 30 minutes or less; while 25 percent of schools will need to push back the start of school by 31 to 60 minutes, the news website said.

The California State PTA co-sponsored the bill.

“When teens get enough sleep, they are safer, healthier and do better in school,” Carol Kocivar said, speaking on the group’s behalf. “The California State PTA is proud to co-sponsor this bill and looks forward to helping implement this historic initiative across our state.”

Some opponents raised concerns about how the later start times might affect parents who need to drop their children off at school before they go to work, and push extracurricular activities later into the evening. Opponents also pointed out the change could negatively affect bus routes and result in higher costs for school districts, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Teacher’s unions and the California School Boards Association opposed the bill, saying it eroded local control of school districts.

“We should not set the bell schedule from Sacramento,” said Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), chairman of the Assembly Education Committee. “Sacramento does not know best.”

Last year, lawmakers approved a similar Portantino-sponsored bill to then-Governor Jerry Brown, who vetoed it.

City News Service contributed to this post

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