SACRAMENTO—Middle school and high school students across California could see 8:30 a.m. become the new start time if a senate bill proposed by Anthony Portantino (D-25th District) is passed into law. Senate Bill 328 would prohibit any public school under the authority of a state school district from beginning classes before the proposed time.

“Every year we discuss as parents, educators, and legislators best practices and interests of the children and education,” Portantino said. “Well data is clear. Starting the school day later improves the quality of education, health and welfare of our children. So let’s do it.”

The bill, which carries a wide range of support including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the California Federation of Teachers, made its first step toward becoming state law by passing 5-2 under amendment in the Senate Standing Committee on Education on Wednesday, April 19.

Portantino, citing the AAP, remarked that school districts that have adopted a school day that begins later have increased attendance rates, higher grade point averages, higher college admission scores, and other behavioral benefits conducive to increased educational outcomes for students.

An analysis by committee staff listed several recommendations to streamline and clarify the bill, including questioning whether small, rural communities would be disproportionately burdened, in addition to the potential unintended consequences on working and single parent families, extracurricular activities, and after school programs that would accompany a later school start time. Charter schools, which are currently exempted from laws governing school districts, would also appear to not fall under the new provisions.

Portantino was directed and agreed to amend the bill to provide for some of these cases, including the ability for rural school districts to seek a waiver from the State Board of Education if the district could prove undue economic hardship on residents from compliance with the law.

The current school day for California’s three million public middle and high school students begins around 8:07 a.m., Portantino stated in a February press release. The Los Angeles Unified School District would gain an additional $40 million per year if attendance increased by just one percent.

Despite the apparent benefits of a later starting school day, Portantino may have a political fight on his hands if the bill reaches the senate floor, as both the California School Boards Association and the California Teachers Association with it’s 325,000 members, has opposed the bill. Under existing law, the setting of working hours are specifically included within the bargaining rights of teacher’s unions.

The bill has been re-referred to the California Senate Appropriations Committee for further review. If passed, the new law would be put into effect no later than July 1, 2020.

Written By David Simonson