Opinion

Start schools later and help California students get the sleep they need

Students and parents find their way to classrooms at Barnett Shoals Elementary in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017.
Students and parents find their way to classrooms at Barnett Shoals Elementary in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. AP

As much as parents obsess over their children’s education, it’s stunning that so many object to a proposal before the Legislature with a proven track record of improving school performance.

California should adopt Glendale Sen. Anthony Portantino’s SB 328, which requires middle and high schools to start their regular class schedules no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The average start time for California schools is 8:07 a.m., nearly a half hour earlier than the recommendation of both the American Academy of Pediatricians and the Centers for Disease Control.

A comprehensive study by the CDC of more than 12,000 students offers conclusive proof that teenagers who do not get the recommended eight hours of sleep are more likely to perform poorly in classes. They are also more prone to suffer from depression, be less physically active and be overweight.

The studies show a half hour later start time does mean many kids sleep longer, they don’t just stay up later. But some school administrators and parents say this should remain under local control. They argue that starting the day later would be disruptive and costly for their schools. Parents worry it may cut into children’s extracurricular activities, since the school day would also end later.

In setting times, students’ performance and health should be the priority. Period.

Portantino’s bill would give schools until 2020 to prepare schedule changes. As for costs, schools that have adopted later start times – about 20 percent of high schools nationwide – have shown that it improves attendance. In California, that’s worth real money: School funding is tied to average daily attendance.

California schools should start their classes later. The health and learning benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of change.

Editor’s note: Editorials from other newspapers are offered to stimulate debate and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune.

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