California Legislature passes bill ordering schools to start later

Middle and high school students could have more time to sleep in on school days if the governor signs SB 328 into law. Both house of the California Legislature voted in favor of a bill Friday that would mandate middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

SB 328, authored by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge), is intended to address insufficient student sleep, which proponents of the bill say is a public health issue. Later school start times result in more on-time attendance and higher grades and graduation rates, Portantino said.

“I am beyond thrilled that our children’s health came first today,” Portantino said in a statement on Friday. “It is fundamental to put the well-being of our students first and I am glad that this important measure is moving forward. From day one, this has been my top priority. The science and results are clear, our teens are healthier and perform better when school starts later.”

Portantino’s proposal is based in part on a policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics advising school districts to change their start times to no earlier than 8:30 a.m., specifically for middle and high schools.

If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill into law, school districts will have until 2021 to reorganize class schedules and bus routes and make other preparations needed for later start times. Rural school districts, however, will have an exemption from the 8:30 a.m. or later start time requirement.

The California Teachers Association and the California School Boards Association opposed the bill. They argued the legislation would cause problems for bus schedules and that different communities have different needs.

Last year, the bill died on the Assembly floor. Now the legislation is at Gov. Brown’s desk.