Capitol Alert

Later start times for California schools? Gov. Gavin Newsom will decide

Don’t hit the snooze button yet, kids.

A proposal to roll back school start times still needs Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature to become law.

The California Legislature approved – while working into the early hours of Saturday morning – a measure that would prohibit high schools and middle schools from starting before 8:30 and 8:00 a.m., respectively.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, described an “epidemic” of sleep deprivation among teenagers exacerbated by early school start times. About 80 percent of the state’s secondary schools start before 8:30 a.m., he said.

“Early secondary school start times harm children’s health and safety in many ways,” Gloria continued. “When school starts later, teens get more sleep, they are healthier, they are happier.”

Senate Bill 328 was crafted based on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations that delaying middle and high school start times will improve student sleep schedules and decrease health concerns like obesity and mental health illnesses.

“A substantial body of research has now demonstrated that delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement,” the academy’s website details.

Opponents questioned whether having a uniform and later start time would best serve all of California’s families and the communities they live in, which differ in diversity, geography, and size.

The debate centered on reshaping bus schedules, whether the later start time would just lead to later bedtimes and if parents would be inconvenienced by the switch.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee, which analyzes the fiscal impact of bills, determined that the proposed law would likely cost the state tens of millions in one-time Proposition 98 dollars to change transportation schedules. Ongoing millions would be needed to increase staff supervision before and after school.

“I feel really conflicted about this bill,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance. “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.”

Newsom has until Oct. 13 to sign the bill, which would take effect in 2022.

Capitol bureau reporter Sophia Bollag contributed reporting.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.