Viewpoints

Wake up, California! Local districts should decide what time kids go to school

First-grade teacher Araceli Michel-Schlitz calls on students during a lesson on animals in her classroom at Georgia Brown Elementary School in Paso Robles in 2017.
First-grade teacher Araceli Michel-Schlitz calls on students during a lesson on animals in her classroom at Georgia Brown Elementary School in Paso Robles in 2017. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

What does government overreach look like when it comes to our children? It typically comes in the form of top-down state mandates for schools with no regard for their unique needs.

A recent bill would have mandated that no middle or high school in the state could start class before 8:30 a.m. This bill ignored the needs of local school districts and their students, and would have placed a tremendous burden on single and working parents.

For these reasons, I opposed a mandated school start time and helped defeat it in the Legislature. I believe that in a state as diverse as ours, local school districts need the flexibility to serve their students in the best way possible. Any school start time decision must be made with care, and with recognition of the reality that most households have working parents who must get kids to school before heading to work.

jordan cunningham
Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, R-Templeton, at the Capitol, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Sacramento. Rich Pedroncelli AP

In San Luis Obispo County, there are seven high schools with seven different start times. In Santa Barbara County, there are 20 different school districts, 11 public charter schools and 44 public middle or high schools. Each of these schools has unique circumstances.

It is the local leaders who understand these differences, and it is the local leaders, with input from teachers and parents, who should be making these decisions for our children.

In our state, we have rural districts, urban districts and everything in between. We have districts with morning extracurriculars that would be put in jeopardy. We have districts that rely on staggered start times to make the bus schedules work and stretch thin transportation budgets.

The best argument for moving back school start times is that it might — emphasis on “might” — enable students to get more sleep. As a father of four, I certainly believe in the value of a good night’s sleep. In the technological era it is a bigger challenge than ever. I encourage our local districts to take that important factor into account in making their decisions. But, we don’t need politicians in Sacramento making one-size-fits policy for nearly 4,000 schools and over 3 million students.

Jordan Cunningham, R-Templeton, represents the 35th District in the California Assembly. He formerly served on the Templeton Unified School District Board of Trustees.

You may be buying notebooks and crayons to prepare your kids to go back to school, but you should be thinking about preparing them from the inside out, too. Here are some healthy adjustments you can make to ensure your child gets off to a good start.

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