Larry Gordon/EdSource Today
High school students prepare to board a bus. Opponents of SB 328, the later school start bill, say it would cause scheduling problems and added busing costs.

California teens may get to sleep a bit later before heading to school, if the governor signs a bill requiring middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. But not everyone agrees that allowing the legislature to dictate the starting times of local schools is good policy. 

Middle and high school students in California start their school day on average at 8:07 a.m. according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a time that researchers say denies them badly needed sleep.

The bill’s passage by the full Legislature on Aug. 31 came as a surprise, after it failed in the Assembly last year. But supporters flooded legislators with emails this year, driving home the point that research shows most teens are unable to go to sleep early due to changes in their biological clocks and that sleep deprivation leads to absenteeism, lower grades, higher dropout rates and depression.

Critics of the change are appealing to Brown’s support for local control — letting school districts decide for themselves how to run their schools. This group includes education heavyweights such as the California School Boards Association, the California Teachers Association, California Association of School Business Officials, Association of California School Administrators, the California Association of Suburban Schools and the Kern County and Riverside County offices of education.

California Teachers Association President Eric Heins said his union opposes a “one size fits all” solution imposed by the state, which could result in “unintended consequences” affecting transportation costs, employee contracts, cafeteria service and class schedules.

“We don’t know all the impact it’s going to have on any community,” he said. “There are a lot of different ripple effects of this.”. 

One ripple effect is the need to renegotiate working hours in many districts for teachers and other employees, such as bus drivers, affected by the later start times.

The teachers union has sent a veto request to the governor and expects many of its members to also appeal to Brown “to continue in his mission” of support for local control that he brought to California, said spokeswoman Claudia Briggs. Brown championed the Local Control Funding Formula, which gives school districts greater decision-making over use of state funds, as well as extra funds to educate low-income, English learner, foster children and homeless children.

But, teachers unions are split on this issue.  The California Federation of Teachers backs the bill joining other groups that support medical research showing that teens have difficulty falling asleep early in the evening and functioning well in the morning.

Brown, who has not said whether he will support the bill, has until the end of the month to sign or veto it.

In the meantime, both supporters and opponents are sending letters and making phone calls to the governor’s office in an attempt to influence his decision.

Supporters are tweeting the governor’s contact information and urging others who share their concerns to advocate for his signature on the bill, while those opposed to the bill are also ramping up communications to the governor’s office.

“It is fundamental to put the well-being of our students first and I am glad that this important measure is moving forward,” said state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D–La Cañada Flintridge, after SB 328, which he authored, passed the Assembly. “The science and results are clear — our teens are healthier and perform better when school starts later.”

Opponents don’t dispute the research, but maintain it should be up to local school boards to assess their community’s needs. Jeffrey Vaca, chief governmental relations officer for the Riverside County Office of Education, sent a letter to the governor on Tuesday outlining concerns about the bill including transportation costs and the lack of a clear definition of rural districts. He was part of a coalition of nine education groups that sent a memo raising similar issues to assembly members last week.

Vaca said Wednesday that he was hopeful the governor’s general support of local control would be an important consideration as Brown evaluates the proposed law.

“I think it’s fair to say that during his time in office, he’s been very consistent about wanting decisions regarding school districts to be made at the local level,” Vaca said. “But I also know that he will be very interested in looking at all the research.”

The California School Boards Association intends to send a veto request to the governor by the end of the week, said Nancy Chaires Espinoza, legislative advocate for CSBA. Like other opponents, she’s hoping Brown will weigh local control in his decision, along with transportation costs and the safety of students walking or biking to school during rush hour.

“I think the governor is going to thoughtfully consider all of the arguments for and against,” she said. “We hope our members will help us explain why this intervention of later school times can be good in some places, but it’s not going to be necessarily good in all communities.”

Share Article

Comments (8)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

The goal of the comments section on EdSource is to facilitate thoughtful conversation about content published on our website. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. el 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I get what people are going for here, but I do think a better way would be to create a nudge - say make it so the board has to explicitly decide at a public hearing to have the earlier start time - rather than a blanket fiat. I too am curious about what constitutes a rural district - and if this policy is unambiguously good, why are they exempt? Local conditions may override the quality … Read More

    I get what people are going for here, but I do think a better way would be to create a nudge – say make it so the board has to explicitly decide at a public hearing to have the earlier start time – rather than a blanket fiat.

    I too am curious about what constitutes a rural district – and if this policy is unambiguously good, why are they exempt?

    Local conditions may override the quality of the studies that are cited in favor of the later start time – for example, for schools without air conditioning.

    In general, I do suspect that letting kids sleep a little later helps them, but there are so many variables in play that I’m not sure this bill really accomplishes what we’re looking for. For example in some situations, the morning bus time might not change, or they might miss classes in the afternoon more often, possibly negating the good effects we hope for.

    That our whole system is biased towards morning larks and against night owls is another interesting point, but this bill doesn’t really help with that in any way.

  2. Carmen Black 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Parents need to make sure kids go to bed at a decent time and should start school at 6 or 8. I think lots of propositions are to benefit adults and have nothing to do with students.

  3. Dr. Timothy P. Scully 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    This is total nonsense brought to you by folks with too much time on their hands. This will require city bus services to rearrange bus schedules and cities to rerarrange traffic light sequence. Elementary siblings walked to school by older siblings will require altered arrangements. Athletic schedules will have to br changed to later start times. The solution is for parents to tell their kids to go to bed earlier and mean it. Be serious. Hopefully, Gov. … Read More

    This is total nonsense brought to you by folks with too much time on their hands. This will require city bus services to rearrange bus schedules and cities to rerarrange traffic light sequence.

    Elementary siblings walked to school by older siblings will require altered arrangements.

    Athletic schedules will have to br changed to later start times.

    The solution is for parents to tell their kids to go to bed earlier and mean it. Be serious. Hopefully, Gov. Brown leaves his pen at home. If he signs this, one of my legislative heroes will jump into the Pyre of Ignorance.

  4. stephanie erickson 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Starting school later in the morning is unnecessary. For years we have been able to get our students to school at 8:00 am. As it is our students in California are not learning and are at the bottom when it comes to other states, and the Democrats want to let them sleep rather than have them grow up and get to school on time just like they will be expected to when they … Read More

    Starting school later in the morning is unnecessary. For years we have been able to get our students to school at 8:00 am. As it is our students in California are not learning and are at the bottom when it comes to other states, and the Democrats want to let them sleep rather than have them grow up and get to school on time just like they will be expected to when they go out and work. Do you all think that they will be able to come to work later because they did not go to bed and get enough sleep? Democrats, as usual you dumb down our students.

  5. Michael Butler 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I think we are focusing on the symptom rather than the disease. Both my daughters are taking a zero period this year (starting at 7 am) because secondary schools refuse to consider alternatives to the traditional six-period day. My kids (and many others) are faced with choices about whether to drop an extracurricular or elective (Orchestra or Spanish in our case) or take a class before school officially starts. School master schedules … Read More

    I think we are focusing on the symptom rather than the disease. Both my daughters are taking a zero period this year (starting at 7 am) because secondary schools refuse to consider alternatives to the traditional six-period day. My kids (and many others) are faced with choices about whether to drop an extracurricular or elective (Orchestra or Spanish in our case) or take a class before school officially starts. School master schedules are pretty inflexible and de facto reflect what the schools or district value. Just moving to 8:30 am start time is not going to solve this.

  6. Shannon 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    This is ridiculous. Kids have excelled for years at current school times. They are fine when they get up for something they want to do. Let’s coddle the kids because as an adult, the world just coddles and cares for me.
    Stop butting into things you know nothing about. Are you going to explain this to my employer?

  7. Brian 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I work at a school, which begins the school day at 7:40 Tuesday thru Thursday and at 9:30 on Mondays. The amount of students who are late to school nearly triples on Mondays. While the students are certainly exercising the opportunity to get much needed sleep, the parents who are often responsible for awakening them (generally with multiple attempts) have now gone to work. The teenage student is then charged with displaying maturity and discipline … Read More

    I work at a school, which begins the school day at 7:40 Tuesday thru Thursday and at 9:30 on Mondays. The amount of students who are late to school nearly triples on Mondays. While the students are certainly exercising the opportunity to get much needed sleep, the parents who are often responsible for awakening them (generally with multiple attempts) have now gone to work. The teenage student is then charged with displaying maturity and discipline to wake themselves (a struggle even for adults). In addition, those students who are involved in extracurricular activities and sports will now miss more classes to attend games. The average volleyball player misses at least two class periods per week during the season. This would increase to four if start times are moved back.

    I have faithfully supported Anthony Portantino throughout his political career, but I believe this bill will cause more harm than good.

  8. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Statewide later K-12 school start times? Nearing the end of his time as Governor, I ‘m betting Jerry Brown will take a pass on signing this legislation mostly because it is of such negligible interest to him and will be the course of least resistance to numerous unionized lobbies who prefer that such decisions remain in the hands of “local controllers.”