When it comes to education, it’s often a matter of follow the leader, and. In this case, I’m talking about the great state of California and its “bold move to mandate later start times for middle and high schools.”

Can the rest be far behind?

At first glance, it makes absolute sense to let teenagers sleep in a bit, since their body clocks keep them from falling asleep until late at night, but…

The bill Governor Gavin Newsom signed in October mandates an 8:00 a.m. opening for middle schools while prohibiting high schools from starting before 8:30. And, as the Sacramento Bee’s Hannah Wiley writes, “Schools must adopt the law before July 1, 2022, or sooner if they have collective bargaining units that allow negotiation before the deadline.”

So far, so good, right?  Indeed, the bill’s author, Democrat State Senator Anthony Portanino, hails it as based on “indisputable” science,” adding that “This is a public health bill that has a positive academic outcome. The overwhelming benefit to the health and welfare of children demands that we make those changes.”

At least to a point, he’s got a point. After all, getting more sleep could translate into better grades, and some studies suggest that doing so could also add billions to the economy.

Plus, inadequate sleep, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, not only leads to academic problems, but also contributes to obesity, depression, and a greater risk of car accidents. It’s, therefore, all in with these time changes, saying that they’re “more in sync with the natural sleep patterns of those age groups.”

So what’s not to like, right? Well, not so fast because…

First of all, many experts say all this is too little, going so far as to say that, actually, 16-year-olds should not start school until 10:30 a.m., and 18-year-olds not before 11 o’clock.

Meanwhile, senior director of education research at Child Trends Deborah Temkin cautions that, “When weighing the benefits of later start times that may only give students 15 to 30 minutes extra sleep with the costs of say, purchasing additional buses to accommodate shifting schedules.”

Plus, she adds, “Much of the research on delayed school start times so far shows little or no academic benefit for students.”

That’s possible because some kids will change their bedtimes, too.

And that’s not the only downside, as Education Week’s Ariana Prothero notes:

  1. “Delaying start times require overhauling bus schedules and even, potentially, adding new buses to a district’s fleet. It can impact after-school activities and sports practices, costing districts extra money to keep the lights on.”
  2. “It can affect traffic as parents drop their students off at later times.”
  3. “And simply because school starts later doesn’t mean that all families can shift their schedules accordingly if parents or younger siblings have to start work and school earlier.”

So I gotta ask: Is this a great idea or another feel-good, potentially costly piece of legislation?

With thanks, Carol