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Newsom Signs Bill To Set Start Times For Middle, High Schools Later

A parked school bus in San Diego, Nov. 1, 2018.

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: A parked school bus in San Diego, Nov. 1, 2018.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday signed his first-of-its-kind legislation to mandate later start times at California middle and high schools.

Under SB 328 from State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), middle and high school days will begin no earlier than 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively, excluding some rural schools and a "zero period" offered before the start of the regular school day.

It goes into effect no later than July 1, 2022.

"Governor Newsom displayed a heartwarming and discerning understanding of the importance of objective research and exercised strong leadership as he put our children's health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change," Portantino said.

The law was written on the basis of three decades of studies on teen health, sleep patterns and brain chemistry, said Portantino, who added in a statement, adding that research indicated when the school day starts later, children are significantly healthier and perform better academically.

The California State PTA co-sponsored the bill. Speaking on the group's behalf, Carol Kocivar said, "When teens get enough sleep, they are safer, healthier and do better in school. The California State PTA is proud to co-sponsor this bill and looks forward to helping implement this historic initiative across our state."

Teacher's unions and the California School Boards Association opposed the bill, saying it eroded local control of school districts. Concerns were also raised about how the later start times might affect working parents who need to drop their children off at school.

"We should not set the bell schedule from Sacramento," said Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D-Long Beach), chairman of the Assembly Education Committee. "Sacramento does not know best."

Last year, Sen. Portantino sent a similar bill to then-Governor Jerry Brown, who vetoed it.

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