On October 13, 2019, SB 328, the “later school start bill”, was officially approved by Governor Gavin Newsom which makes California the first state to approve legislation for later school start times.
This bill makes it so that middle schools cannot start classes earlier than 8:00 AM and high schools cannot start classes earlier than 8:30 AM. This law is to go into effect on July 1, 2022, or the date on which the respective school district’s collective bargaining agreement for the 2020 year expires. Rural schools are excluded from the late start change.
This was the third time that SB 328 has been brought forward. It was rejected in 2017 and again in 2018 when it was vetoed by former Governor Jerry Brown. Newsom approved the bill just hours before the midnight deadline to sign or veto legislation for this year.
This bill is backed by decades of research correlating sleep deprivation and the ways in which it affects adolescents and their ability to learn. According to scientific studies, the later school start times will lead to “increased attendance and graduation rates, improved grades and fewer car crashes.”
This bill has come with heavy opposition, primarily from the school board, teachers, and parents. Opposition comes as parents argue that it will be more difficult to coordinate their work schedules with getting their children to work while teachers argue that the time change will lead to complications with employee contracts and difficulty finding time for extracurricular activities. Finally, the overwhelming opposition to this bill has been from Californians that are upset that the State is making a decision that had previously been locally controlled.
Position of Elk Grove Unified School District
The Elk Grove Unified School District specifically stated their opposition to the bill as follows:
“…the permissive nature of the California Education Code currently allows Local Education Agencies to set their own start times. The fact that today more than one in five school districts voluntarily meet SB 328’s standards proves the bill is unnecessary for communities that would be well served by later start times. For communities and school agencies that would be burdened by a later school schedule, however, SB 328 would present tremendous difficulties with significant opportunity costs. And because school schedules have such a wide-ranging and significant impact on operations and expenses, a great number of districts would be hurt by this legislation for a number of different reasons. Determining school schedules is a decision that even more than most should reflect specific conditions and be decided locally, not from Sacramento.”