California Dreaming: Starting the School Day Later

California middle and high schools will start the school day later.

Posted Sep 03, 2018

Pixabay Free Images
Source: Pixabay Free Images

In a huge victory for advocates of later start times, the California legislature passed on August 31, 2018  SB-329: Pupil Attendance: School Start Time. Introduced by Senator Anthony J. Portantino in 2017, and co-sponsored by Senator Richard Pan,  the bill as amended is as follows:

(a) The school day for middle schools and high schools, including middle schools and high schools operated as charter schools, shall begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

(b) For purposes of this section, “schoolday” does not include a “zero period,” or an extra period offered before the start of the regular schoolday.

(c) This section shall be implemented by middle schools and high schools no later than July 1, 2021, or the date on which a school district’s collective bargaining agreement that is operative on January 1, 2019, expires, whichever is later.

(d) This section shall not apply to rural school districts.

(e) The department is encouraged to post on its Internet Web site available research on the impact of sleep deprivation on adolescents and the benefits of a later school start time and examples of successful strategies for managing the change to a later school start time, and to advise school districts of this posting.

(f) The Legislature encourages school districts and community organizations to inform their communities, including parents, teenagers, educators, athletic coaches, and other stakeholders, about the health, safety, and academic impact of sleep deprivation on middle and high school pupils and the benefits of a later school start time, and to discuss local strategies to successfully implement the later school start time.

The bill was originally introduced in February 2017, then successfully passed the education and appropriation committees, but voted down in September 2017 with a vote of 23 Ayes and 30 Noes.  Votes were not recorded for 23 legislators.  At that time, concerns about the state exercising control over what some saw as a local district prerogative were enough to persuade a majority to vote No.  The amended version, which passed with a vote of 41 Ayes and 34 Noes (only 5 with votes not recorded), exempting rural school districts and still allowing a zero period, gives districts a few years to make the adjustments.  Governor Jerry brown will have to sign the bill to establish it as law. It is notable that the Legislature encourages school districts to educate their constituencies about sleep deprivation and the expected benefits of later start times.

The Start School Later advocacy group deserves a lot of the credit for this very important accomplishment!