Sacramento Bee: California senator wants to push back school start times

Monday, February 13 2017

New California legislation may be a boon to tardy teens.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, introduced a bill Monday that would prohibit middle and high schools from starting classes before 8:30 a.m. Citing a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Portantino says school districts that push back the school day start see an increase in attendance rates, grade point averages and test scores, among other benefits.

“Education reform is a buzz word these days,” Portantino said. “To me this is education reform where there’s no debate about the benefits. The science and research are clear: Our kids will do better if we start the school day later.”

While pediatricians approve, Portantino said his own wife was a little more hesitant to sign on.

She pointed out that an earlier start time may create problems for parents who drop their kids off before heading to work in the morning, he said. The average start time for middle and high school students in California during the 2011 to 2012 school year was 8:07 a.m., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Portantino said he drafted the bill without an implementation date to gather feedback from stakeholders and give parents time to adjust. He believes the benefits for children will outweigh a schedule disruption to parents.

“Most working parents wants what’s in the best interest of their children, as well,” Portantino said.

Beyond health effects, Portantino argues that Senate Bill 328 will increase funding for schools, which is often tied to attendance. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, estimates that a 1 percent bump in attendance could bring an additional $40 million in funding to the district.