- California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 328, legislation that would have restricted middle and high schools from starting before 8:30 a.m., the Los Angeles Times reports.
- The bill, introduced by Sen. Anthony Portantino, was supported by several California state hospitals and universities, the California State PTA, and the California Police Chiefs Association, among other groups.
- As reported in the Los Angeles Times, “This is a one-size-fits-all approach that is opposed by teachers and school boards,” Brown explained of his veto. “Several schools have already moved to later start times. Others prefer beginning the school day earlier. These are the types of decisions best handled in the local community.”
It's been established that the natural circadian rhythms of teenagers tend toward falling asleep late, usually not earlier than 11 p.m. With the vast majority of middle and high schools starting classes before 8:30 a.m. — many between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. — American teens are, on the whole, somewhat sleep-deprived. This has negative effects on educational outcomes, health and mental well being.
Among the organizations calling for later start times are the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All three groups recommend that middle and high schools start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Proponents of Bill 328 in California also touted a recent report from the RAND Corporation outlining state-level economic benefits of moving start times to after 8:30 a.m., based on estimated improved graduation rates and decreased teen car crashes.
Still, later start times for middle and high schools can be a tough sell in some districts, for reasons that tend to involve logistics or parent necessity. The big one, in districts that rely heavily on busing, is the need to use only one fleet of buses. That can be a financial necessity for many districts, and it necessitates staggered school start and end times. Some parents rely on their teens to watch their younger siblings until they get home from work. So, obviously, the older children need to be home first.
Extracurriculars, especially team sports, also play a role. If teens started school an hour later, and thus ended an hour later, it would be difficult if not impossible to finish games before it gets dark. Complicating the extracurricular factor further is the need for school sports teams to travel to other schools to play away games. Departing at 3:30 instead of 2:30 would have buses traveling at least one way during rush hour, potentially leaving players with too little time in the evening to do homework.
Lastly, many high school students have after-school jobs, and losing an hour or more of income every day could be a hardship, especially for low-income students.
School districts in at least 20 states from Maine to Washington have moved start times later for the 2018-19 school year, although not necessarily to 8:30 a.m., reports advocacy group Start School Later, the sponsor of Bill 328 in California.
It's not uncommon for bills to have to be introduced several times before they're approved. "Eventually a bill like this, created in the best interests of children, will pass. It’s only a matter of time,” Dr. Terra Ziporyn Snider, co-founder and executive director of Start School Later, said in a statement.