Governor Signs Bill Making California the First State to Push Back School Start Times

Teachers and school districts opposed the law, which bans high schools from starting the day before 8:30 a.m.

What to Know

  • The new school start time law is the first in the nation mandated by a state
  • The law goes into effect no later than July 1, 2021
  • High schools are banned from starting the day before 8:30 a.m. Middle schools are banned from starting before 8 a.m.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom ended the Legislative session on Sunday by rejecting expansions of full-day kindergarten programs and paid family leave for teachers while signing a new law that bans high schools from starting the day before 8:30 a.m.

Newsom had until Sunday to act on legislation passed this year. On Sunday night, Newsom announced he had signed 870 laws. But Sunday's action included more vetoes than signings, mostly for things Newsom said the state could not afford to implement.

The legislation also bans middle schools from beginning before 8 a.m.

The law goes into effect no later than July 1, 2021.

Teachers and school districts opposed the law, arguing the decision on when to start school should be left to local officials.

But the bill's author, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, said Newsom's signature "put our children's health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change."

"Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier," Portantino said.

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

The state's largest school district issued a statement Monday.

"Los Angeles Unified did not take a position on Senate Bill 328," a district spokesperson said. "Now that it has been signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, we will closely evaluate the impacts to our schools in anticipation of the bill taking effect for the 2022-23 academic year."

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."

A legislative analysis of the bill Newsom signed into law noted studies about the impacts of school start times over the past 15 years have had "wide variation in conclusions."

"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."

In other action on education legislation, Newsom vetoed a bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber that would have required all elementary schools, including charter schools, to have at least one full-day kindergarten program by 2022. In a veto message, Newsom noted enrollment in full-day kindergarten programs has grown for more than a decade. But he said some school districts only offer part-day programs because they don't have the facilities necessary for a full-day program.

"While I support increased access to full-day kindergarten, I cannot sign this bill as it would impose new costs outside the budget," Newsom wrote, adding the state budget includes $300 million in one-time money to help school districts build facilities for full-day kindergarten.

Newsom said most of the bills he vetoed on Sunday were because of money concerns.

They included blocking a bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez that would have required all school districts, charter schools and community colleges to provide at least six weeks of full pay for pregnancy-related leaves of absences.

Currently, teachers use vacation and sick days for pregnancy leaves. Once those run out, teachers get their salary, but minus the cost of hiring a substitute, for up to five months.

In a veto message, Newsom said it is his goal to give all California workers paid leave for pregnancies.

"However, this bill will likely result in annual costs of tens of millions of dollars that should be considered as part of the annual budget process and as part of local collective bargaining," Newsom said. A state task force is exploring how to increase paid family leave for all California workers, he said.

Gonzalez said the bill is not about paid family leave, but "the medical condition of pregnancy and maternity leave."

"Teachers and school employees who are overwhelmingly women need to be protected like private sector workers," she said. "We aren't done fighting for this. We have to address the inequity eventually."

He did sign an additional 12 bills.

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