The California Assembly Education Committee approved the second attempt to pass controversial school start times legislation that was reintroduced in February by state Sen. Anthony Portantino.
The committee hearing on SB 328 was held on Wednesday.
Portantino’s similar legislation last year was passed by the Senate and Assembly, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who sided with educators and student transporters.
SB 328 addresses the “significant public health crisis of sleep-deprived teens, by requiring high schools in California to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and middle schools to begin no earlier than 8:00 a.m.,” said Portantino’s staff.
The California Association of School Transportation officials is among the organizations that are opposed to mandating school start times. Meanwhile, the California State PTA and Start School Later Ink are sponsoring SB 328. The bill has also attracted support from medical professionals, researchers, law enforcement and education advocates, claims Portantino’s staff.
Wednesday’s Developments & Comments
Senator Portantino commented: “Children across California deserve that we put a premium on their health and welfare. Study after study has proven that the more teens sleep the healthier they are and the better they perform. Schools across the country that responded to the research by moving to a later start time have seen their children thrive. It’s time for California to act so this generation and every generation has the opportunity to be healthy, happy and successful students.”
SB 328 principal co-authors include Assemblymembers Ian Calderon and Todd Gloria. It is co-authored by Sens. Richard Pan and Scott Wiener, and Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath.
According to Portantino, SB 328 is based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have advised making the start time of middle schools and high schools later.
Proponents claim that school districts that have followed the recommendation and made their start times later, “have seen increases in attendance, academic performance and graduation rates and a decrease in car accidents, frequency of suicidal thoughts, depression, drug use, and sports injuries.”
But CASTO said that unintended consequences come with mandating school start times.
“SB 328 uses a one size fits all approach, restricting school districts across the state from starting middle schools before 8 a.m. and high schools before 8:30 a.m.,” said Nico Chavez, a lobbyist for CASTO.
Opponents Don’t Like Sacramento Dictating Start Times
In a statement on Wednesday, CASTO said it believes school start times should be a local decision, so as to allow a thoughtful, comprehensive stakeholder process to verify that the benefits outweigh the negative impacts.
CASTO requested its members to phone the members of the Assembly Education to ask that they vote “no” on the bill.
For now, though, it appears that the efforts of CASTO and other opponents fell short in their efforts. The bill moves on through the Assembly, and it remains to be seen if both the Senate and House pass the legislation. If they do, will Gov. Gavin Newsom sign it into law?
According to the Portantino, “The leaders of local school districts are or should be well-aware that requiring students—especially adolescents—to wake, travel to school, and learn during early morning hours is contrary to the developmental needs and biological sleep cycles of growing minds and bodies. Yet, only a handful of districts have been proactive in doing what is right for students by making the change back to traditional school hours, which prior to the 1980s had most school opening between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Today, most middle and high schools begin at or way before 8 a.m. According to the most recent data available, the average start time among California-based public schools is 8:07 a.m.”
SB 323 would prohibit high schools, including those operated as charter schools, from beginning their school day before 8:30 a.m. It would also prohibit middle schools, including those operated as charter schools, from beginning their school day before 8 a.m.
Rural school districts would be exempted.
If passed, the mandate would go into effect no later than July 1, 2022.
However, it would authorize school districts or charter schools to offer classes or activities to a limited number of pupils before the start of the school day that do not generate average daily attendance for purposes of computing any apportionments of state funding.
The California Department of Education (CDE) would be required to post on its website available research on the impact of sleep deprivation on adolescents and the benefits of a later school start time, examples of successful strategies for managing the change to a later school start time, and to advise school districts of this posting.
School districts and community organizations would be encouraged to inform their parents, teenagers, educators, athletic coaches and other stakeholders about the health, safety and academic impact of sleep deprivation on middle and high school student, plus the benefits of a later school start time, and to discuss local strategies to successfully implement the later school start time.