Newsom signs late-start bill

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Newsom signs late-start billOn the final day of California’s legislative session, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that would mandate a later start to the school day for the state’s middle- and high-school campuses.

The bill, which is scheduled for implementation by the start of the 2022-23 school year, prohibits middle schools (including those operating as charter schools) from beginning their school day before 8 a.m. and prohibits high schools from starting before 8:30 a.m.

Newsom said, in a prepared statement, that scientific evidence demonstrates that teenage students who start their day later have an improved academic performance, attendance and overall health.

However, the late-start bill has been received with mixed support. The mandate made it through the state legislature twice — most recently in 2018 — but was overturned each time by Gov. Jerry Brown.

When the issue surfaced last year, Sierra Sands Unified School District’s then-superintendent Ernie Bell identified challenges implementation would pose to the district — including those relating totransportation costs and child care for a community whose major employer has an early start time.

“Our challenges remain the same,” said SSUSD Superintendent Dr. David Ostash. However, Ostash noted, SB328 author Sen. Anthony Portantino has not yet released the language that defines rural districts — which may be exempted from the mandate.

“With that in mind, it would be premature for us to put any energy into the planning until we have a better understanding of Portantino’s definition of ‘rural’ districts,” which has not yet been released publicly.

“I can say that Sierra Sands will continue to work closely with the Kern County superintendent of schools for recognition from the state that we be made exempt from this law based on our remoteness and other unique factors.”

Ostash added that the existing local-area control funding formula for schools is rooted in the concept of district-level solutions and decisionmaking.

“Gov. Brown was very committed to the idea of local control. I believe this most recent law is inconsistent with the purpose of that funding formula.”

Story First Published: 2019-10-18