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Hit the snooze: Middle, high schools will start later after Newsom signs bill

Hit the snooze button, kids. You now have a little longer to sleep in before your day starts.

A new law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Sunday forbids California middle schools from ringing the opening bell before 8 a.m., and prohibits high schools from starting class before 8:30 a.m.

Schools must adopt the law before July 1, 2022, or sooner if they have collective bargaining units that allow negotiation before the deadline.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino, the La Cañada Flintridge Democrat who wrote the law, said Senate Bill 328 is based on “indisputable” science that shows when students are healthier and happier when get to sleep in a little later.

“This is a public health bill that has a positive academic outcome,” Portantino said. “The overwhelming benefit to the health and welfare of children demands that we make those changes.”

Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation last year, saying that “these are the types of decisions best handled in the local community.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that teenagers get eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, according to 2016 research. A lack of sleep is linked to increased accident risk, injuries, obesity, diabetes, depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ research in 2014 further argues that delayed start times lead to improved grades, higher attendance and increased energy during the school day.

Portantino said arguments against the bill — namely that it will negatively affect working-class families and strip away local control — are “adult-based” criticisms.

“Productivity goes up, because suspensions go down. Disruptive behavior goes down, tardies go down, violent behavior goes down,” Portantino argued. “What it comes down to is a reluctance for adults to change.”

School districts and charter networks have traditionally been allowed authority over their own starting times, based on the community’s needs and input by employees and parents.

That input varies across the state, SB 328’s critics said. The legislation will require a shift in how local districts and charter schools organize transportation for students, operate before and after school programs, schedule athletic events and collectively bargain with staff.

“Mandating later start times will create an incredible hardship for single-income families,” Natomas Unified School District Trustee Scott Dosick told lawmakers in April.

Medical groups backed the bill, but several school districts, as well as the California Teachers Association, opposed the measure. The legislation also drew both bipartisan support and opposition from the Legislature.

The association called SB 328 “unnecessary” because it said the legislation’s targeted communities already have the option to start school at later times.

“Adolescents function better with more sleep, but we don’t believe that starting school later is the only path forward,” Seth Bramble, legislative advocate for the association, wrote to lawmakers on Sept. 4. “A mandatory statewide school start time would be an onerous, overreaching mandate on an issue best left to local districts and their parents. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in California.”

An estimated tens of millions of one-time general fund dollars is expected to go toward bus rescheduling costs and the hiring of new drivers. Ongoing millions are expected to fulfill additional staff requirements for before and after school supervision.

“I feel really conflicted about this bill,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, during last month’s floor debate. “If we adopt this bill, it’s going to impose the before-school, childcare expenses. It’s going to impose the busing expenses on already struggling school districts. We should leave it to local control.”


Source: East Bay Hit the snooze: Middle, high schools will start later after Newsom signs bill

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