A ban on starting regular school classes earlier than 8:30 a.m. in all California middle and high schools will come up for a vote next month in an Assembly committee.
The bill passed the Assembly Education Committee last week and must clear the Assembly Appropriations Committee before it goes to the full Assembly. If passed and signed by the governor, the bill would make California the first state in the country to adopt a ban on early start times in secondary schools.
In May, the Senate approved the bill in a 23-13 vote. SB 328 was sponsored by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D–La Cañada Flintridge.
Portantino and supporters of the proposed law say it is necessary because it addresses public health concerns related to adolescent sleep deprivation, including suicide, depression, and car accidents involving teens. Medical research shows that teens have difficulty falling asleep early in the evening and functioning well in the morning, Portantino and others told the Assembly Committee on Education last Wednesday.
If passed, the bill wouldn’t go into effect for two years, to give schools and districts time to plan for it. Small, rural districts could apply for waivers for up to two years, if the new law would pose a hardship for them.
The bill is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, California State PTA, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, California Federation of Teachers, California Sleep Society and several hospitals, school districts and student advocacy groups. Advocates who spoke at the Assembly Education Committee hearing included Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who is a pediatrician.
“The science is sound,” he said. “We need to do this for the benefit of our kids.”
Opponents include the California School Boards Association, California Teachers Association and California Association of School Business Officials. Nancy Chaires Espinoza, a legislative advocate for the California School Boards Association, was among those who spoke against the bill at the Assembly Education Committee hearing, saying local school boards should be the ones deciding start times for their schools, not the state.
Chaires Espinoza said later start times may require additional buses and drivers and some districts may not have funding for them.
She also speculated that many teens may not get more sleep anyway, since their parents might not be able to adjust their work days and would have to just drop kids off early.
The bill would not apply to so-called optional “zero period” classes, which take place before the regular school day begins and add an extra period to a student’s day. However, it would include charter schools, the committee said.
A rundown of nearly a dozen bills being followed by EdSource is here.
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