Rest easy, California students. And later, too.
California became the first state in the nation to push back the starting time for high schools and middle schools, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Sunday that prohibits California's middle schools from starting classes before 8 a.m., while high schools can no longer start class before 8:30 a.m., according to The Sacramento Bee,
According to the new legislation, school districts must adopt the law before July 1, 2022, or sooner if districts have collective bargaining units that will allow negotiations before the deadline, the newspaper reported.
“The science shows that teenage students who start their day later increase their academic performance, attendance, and overall health,” Newsom said in a statement. “Importantly, the law allows three years for schools and school districts to plan and implement these changes.”
The law will be phased in over the next few years. It does not apply to optional early classes -- known as "zero periods" -- or to schools in California's rural districts, the Times reported.
Doctors advocated the later start, asserting that teenagers were not getting enough sleep due to homework loads, after-school sports and jobs, KCRA reported. Doctors said later opening bell times would allow students to get more rest and function better during the school day, the television station reported.
According to the Times, an analysis of the 2011-2012 school year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the average starting time for more than 3 million students attending high school and middle school was 8:07 a.m. Some students were required to be in class before 7:30, the report said.
State Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, who authored the bill, said Newsom "displayed a heartwarming and discerning understanding" and put the health of students "ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change.”
“Generations of children will come to appreciate this historic day and our governor for taking bold action. Our children face a public health crisis," Portantino said in a statement. "Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier.”
Opposition to the law came from teachers unions and school districts that argued the time to begin classes should be determined at the local level and not mandated by the state.
"We should not set the bell schedule from Sacramento," Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell, D-Long Beach, a former schoolteacher, told the Times. "Sacramento does not know best."
“Adolescents function better with more sleep, but we don’t believe that starting school later is the only path forward,” Seth Bramble, a legislative advocate for the California Teachers Association, wrote to lawmakers on Sept. 4. “A mandatory statewide school start time would be an onerous, overreaching mandate on an issue best left to local districts and their parents. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in California.”
In a statement, the association called Newsom's decision to sign the law "unfortunate," the Times reported.