California Gov. Newsom Signs School Start Time Bill Into Law

Gov. Gavin Newsom (center) signed many bills into law on Oct. 13, including the controversial school start time bill. (Screen capture of video by the Sacramento Bee.)
Gov. Gavin Newsom (center) signed many bills into law on Oct. 13, including the controversial school start time bill. (Screen capture of video by the Sacramento Bee.)

Among 870 bills Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law over the weekend included a controversial plan to change the start times for most California schools so students can get more sleep.

Newsom signed the bill on Sunday, the last legal day to act. California has now become the first state in the U.S. to require later start times at most middle schools and high schools.

In 2018, the state legislature approved an almost identical bill written by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, but then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it. He said at the time that local school districts are better equipped to determine their own hours, not the state government.

Portantino introduced his second attempt, SB 328, in February and it was passed by the state legislature last month. It prohibits high schools in 2022, including charter high schools, from beginning their school days before 8:30 a.m. It also prohibits middle schools, including those operated as charter schools, from beginning their school day before 8 a.m. However, rural school districts are exempted.

Opponents, like the California State Association of Student Transportation Officials (CASTO) and the California Teachers Association, claimed SB 383 would increase transportation costs for school districts and childcare costs for some working parents. A recent Rand Corp. study noted that school districts would have to “invest and operate more buses amid a delay in school start time.”

“While we understand the importance of maximizing student sleep, SB 328 could pose disproportionate impacts on student safety, fiscal services, and community in a state as diverse as our own,” said Nico Chavez, CASTO’s legislative representative, on Sept. 13. “We believe that the decision to implement late school start times should be left to the locally elected school board trustees and not be approached as a ‘one size fits all’ solution.”

Portantino disagreed. “Data shows that costs typically do not go up in relation to the time shift, but attendance does,” he said. “This will bring additional ADA dollars to California schools, so the bill is a win for both the students and our schools.”

The California PTA, EdVoice, and Start School Later sponsored SB 328. It received strong support from the medical community and is based on the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Other supporting organizations were the California Medical Association, Kaiser Permanente and the Mental Health Alliance of California.


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