Florida Lawmakers Propose Later School Start Time So Kids Can Get Much-Needed Sleep

Years of studies show later start times are better for teens. Two proposed bills would prohibit public middle & high schools from starting too early

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Almost half of public high school students in Florida start their school day before 7:30 a.m., despite years of studies showing later start times are better for teens. Now, lawmakers want to make changes to the school-day hours.

House Speaker Paul Renner mentioned the issue during his opening remarks on the start of the 2023 regular session:

“Quality sleep is also critical to children’s learning and mental health, so we will pursue appropriate school start times as a zero-cost way to improve both academic scores and mental well-being,” Renner said Tuesday, indicating that later school start times is a high priority for the House this session.

Now, there’s two bills filed that would prohibit public middle and high schools from starting too early in the morning: HB 733 is sponsored by Rep. John Paul Temple, of Sumter and part of Hernando counties. And SB 1112 is sponsored by Sen. Danny Burgess, representing parts of Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

The proposed legislation says that by July 1, 2026, Florida middle schools cannot start classes earlier than 8 a.m. and high school classes cannot start earlier than 8:30 a.m. The start times would also apply to charter middle and high schools, according to the bills.

The legislation also requires that school boards inform the school community, including parents, teachers, students, and others about the academic impacts of sleep deprivation on middle and high school students.

A staff analysis reports that, based on data from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability reports, on average, traditional public high schools begin at 7:47 a.m. in Florida, with 48% of high schools starting before 7:30 in the morning.

Traditional public middle schools in Florida start at 9:06 a.m. on average, with 83% of Florida’s middle schools starting at 8:30 a.m. or later, according to the staff analysis.

The non-traditional charter schools averages are different. Charter high schools begin at 7:44 a.m. on average and charter middle schools start at 8:09 a.m. on average, according to the staff analysis.

The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) supports the effort, according to a press release from the organization Wednesday.

“Speaker Renner’s dedication to improving the lives of children and adolescents in Florida through his proposal on school start times is praiseworthy,” FCAAP President Thresia Gambon, said in a written statement Wednesday. “By recognizing the critical importance of sufficient sleep for academic success, health, and safety, he is taking significant steps towards improving the lives of our children and adolescents.”

The FCAAP says that earlier school start times contribute to insufficient sleep, disrupting adolescents’ circadian rhythm.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports adolescents with improper sleep patterns are more likely to suffer from symptoms of depression, be overweight, and perform poorly in school.

According to the CDC:

“During puberty, adolescents become sleepy later at night and need to sleep later in the morning as a result in shifts in biological rhythms. These biological changes are often combined with poor sleep habits (including irregular bedtimes and the presence of electronics in the bedroom). During the school week, school start times are the main reason students wake up when they do. The combination of late bedtimes and early school start times results in most adolescents not getting enough sleep.”

Other states like California have issued later start times, but according to the National Education Association, a nationwide teacher union, the move has been controversial.

The NEA said in a December post:

“Many educators, district leaders, and parents believe the shift will present significant operational and logistical challenges, complicate the scheduling of after-school extra-curricular activities, and disrupt the schedules of working parents. Both the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Schools Board Association opposed the measure on these grounds, also citing the erosion of local control and a failure to respect parental decisions and community input.”

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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