Credit: Chez_Sugi, Creative Commons

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Sunday that will mandate a later morning start for most middle and high schools, choosing to side with pediatricians and the PTA rather than the state’s leading teachers union and groups representing school boards and superintendents.

The bill’s author said California will now become the first state to require later start times in response to medical research that shows most teens are sleep deprived as a result of changes to their biological clocks that prevent them from going to sleep early.

Senator Anthony Portantino, D-San Fernando, was effusive in praising Newsom for signing a bill that former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a year ago. Brown said start times should remain a local decision.

 “Today, 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 in a statement. “Generations of children will come to appreciate this historic day and our Governor for taking bold action.”

Expressing disappointment, the California School Boards Association said the mandate “fails to respect parental decisions or consider the needs of local communities.” The research on later start times is inconclusive but the impact on families can be predicted, said spokesman Troy Flint. The bill “will disproportionately affect low-income families and prevent many students from working after school or from caring for their siblings,” he said, adding it could increase the need for childcare for “already cash-strapped families.”

When it goes into effect in 2022-23, the law will require middle schools to begin no earlier than 8 am and high schools to start regular classes after 8:30 am. The bill exempts rural districts because of bus scheduling challenges and also excludes “zero periods,” which are optional courses offered by some schools before the regular school day begins.

Newsom announced approval of Senate Bill 328 without comment in the last batch among hundreds of bills he signed and vetoed on the final day for signing for legislation passed last month.

Among the more than 100 vetoes that he issued on Sunday, the governor rejected education bills that would have:

  • Mandated full-day kindergarten for all children, citing the cost to the state (see veto message for AB 197).
  • Required all K-12 districts and community colleges to provide 6 weeks of full pay for maternity leave, stating districts should deal with these costs in their budgets and labor bargaining (see veto message for AB 500).
  • Created a STEM seal of approval as part of a graduation diploma, citing a shortage of math and science teachers to teach the courses and other existing recognitions (see veto message for AB 28)

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported Portantino’s Senate Bill 328. They cited research that shows sleep deprivation leads to teen absenteeism, lower grades, higher dropout rates and depression.

“We took a really close look at this and asked the most important question: ‘What is best for our kids?’” said Carol Kocivar, legislative advocate for the California PTA. “The answer is absolutely clear. This affects every teenager in California, regardless of what zip code they live in.”

Among the opponents, the California Teachers Association, the Association of California School Administrators and the school boards association said that SB 328 would negatively affect before- and after-school programs and sports, union contracts and bus schedules. Many working parents tied to daily commute schedules would end up dropping their children off before school just the same, they argued.

“While well-intentioned, proposals to mandate school start times fail to take into account the complexity of the issue and perpetuate the illusion that adolescent sleep deprivation has a simple fix,” two San Jose superintendents, Chris Funk of East Side Union High School District and Nancy Albarrán of San Jose Unified, wrote in a commentary for EdSource. “Those of us working in school systems will tell you that setting school start and end times requires balancing many factors, including the needs of students, parents and staff as well as the financial impact on school districts.”

Portantino argued that it was appropriate for the Legislature to set minimum public health standards based on medical and biological research.

Based on a 2011-12 district survey by the federal government, an analysis by the Assembly Education Committee projected that one-fifth of California’s schools already comply with the bill; about one-half would need to delay their start times by 30 minutes or less, and about a quarter would need to increase their start time between a half-hour and an hour.

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  1. Alex Wright 2 months ago2 months ago

    Will this bill apply to K-8 schools? Will the 7th and 8th graders’ start times move to 8:00 while the elementary kids can still start as early as the school wants? Or are K-8 schools completely exempt, allowing these schools to require 7th and 8th graders to go to school at 7:45 or earlier?

  2. PG 2 months ago2 months ago

    We may have a problem. In many cases, students have burdensome workloads when it comes to homework. 6 classes, 30 minutes per class per night. Three hours of homework a night is just too much. Second, parents don't monitor their kids and structure when they get off social media or away from video games and go to bed. These two mentioned problems are principal reasons that kids stay up too late and are sleep deprived. … Read More

    We may have a problem. In many cases, students have burdensome workloads when it comes to homework. 6 classes, 30 minutes per class per night. Three hours of homework a night is just too much. Second, parents don’t monitor their kids and structure when they get off social media or away from video games and go to bed.

    These two mentioned problems are principal reasons that kids stay up too late and are sleep deprived. This legislation does not get close to addressing these fundamental problems. It is a solution looking for a problem. And for anyone that suggests that I don’t understand, I have a sophomore in high school and I have been teaching high school for 24 years. The burden to parents and school districts is going to be profound.

  3. Heather Leonard 2 months ago2 months ago

    Parents complained that it will prevent their teens from working. That is complete and total BS. The bill states high schools can start no earlier than 8:30. I’m a high school teacher and my school runs 9-4:15. A large portion of my kids have after-school jobs and school hours do not interfere with them. I guess these parents also forgot about weekends, school breaks, and summer as well!

  4. Tammy hopkins 2 months ago2 months ago

    This plan does not magically add an additional hour into the day. It takes away from time in the afternoon to complete homework or participate in activities so they will now need to stay up later.
    This is a terrible idea! Thanks Governor. I hope our district finds some loopholes to offer classes for kids who need every bit of their time in the afternoon to get things done.

  5. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 2 months ago2 months ago

    So much time and energy has been expended on this issue — and other tinkering-around-the-edge causes too — but they are small-beer compared to California’s now-chronic failure to fully educate our public school kids.

    At present, most of our kids are getting a permanent late-start: it was recently announced that half of California public school students remain below proficient in math and English language skills. When will this continuing academic deficit be treated as the emergency it is?

  6. Michelle 2 months ago2 months ago

    I have daughters in middle school and the regular start time is 8:30 am. They have participated in zero period music courses since they were in 5th grade though and those classes start at 7:35 am. This seemed reasonable and allowed me to drop them off and get to work early every day. They go to bed at 8:30 pm and get up at 6 am. I get up between 5 and 5:30 am. … Read More

    I have daughters in middle school and the regular start time is 8:30 am. They have participated in zero period music courses since they were in 5th grade though and those classes start at 7:35 am. This seemed reasonable and allowed me to drop them off and get to work early every day. They go to bed at 8:30 pm and get up at 6 am. I get up between 5 and 5:30 am. We leave the house by 7:15 am. Next year they move to high school and I was disturbed to learn that zero period classes start at 6:30 am and regular school classes start at 7:30 am.

    Students needing to fulfill all of the required courses who still want to include music, art, robotics and other enrichment classes, end up taking zero period PE, music or other classes in order to squeeze it all in. 6:30 am doesn’t seem reasonable for teens to start a school day. A regular start time of 8:30 am and 7:30 am zero period seems doable.

  7. Ranger 2 months ago2 months ago

    So what is “rural?”

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 2 months ago2 months ago

      The term is not defined in the bill, according to the California School Boards Association, which says it plans to seek clarity to identify exempt districts.

  8. tony 2 months ago2 months ago

    I fully support this effort as the health of children should be always be a top priority over other concerns. Different children have different circadian rhythms resulting in different natural sleep wake cycles times. As someone from a technology background, I remember most of my peers who ended up in science and tech fields would prefer to study in late evenings and wake up later versus very few that would sleep early and wake up early. … Read More

    I fully support this effort as the health of children should be always be a top priority over other concerns. Different children have different circadian rhythms resulting in different natural sleep wake cycles times.

    As someone from a technology background, I remember most of my peers who ended up in science and tech fields would prefer to study in late evenings and wake up later versus very few that would sleep early and wake up early. But my elementary school started really early at 7:45 am. I recall many nights trying to sleep early but to no avail resulting in me being fatigued throughout the school day. I’m all for changing my work schedule or having someone drop my kid at a later time in school.

    So, this bill is really appreciated. Thanks, Gov. Newsom!