Sunday, June 12, 2016


Teens are severely sleep-deprived. This needs to change.

Rebecca Klein Editor, HuffPost Education|
evgenyatamanenko via Getty Images
06/09/2016 02:05 pm ETFairfax County Public Schools in Virginia did it. Seattle Public Schools is doing it. Madison School District in Wisconsin is considering doing it.  
Around the country, more school districts are moving to delay their start times. Here’s why: Teens currently aren’t getting enough sleep. And this lack of sleep is having a detrimental effect on their grades and mental health.

Terra Ziporyn Snider, co-founder of the nonprofit Start School Later, has been documenting this problem and advocating changes to fix it since 2011. She started the organization after posting an online petition asking authorities to establish 8 a.m. as the earliest allowable school start time. Within a month, she’d received nearly 2,000 signatures from all over the country. Now, there are close to 75 local chapters of Start School Later, all educating communities about the importance of making school hours compatible with teens’ sleep needs.

“I think educated public opinion is very much in favor of this. Even a vast majority of people who know anything about the issue, if they’ve done any homework or read about it, are for later start times, in theory,” said Snider. “When it comes to specific changes in their school system, there’s much more debate.”

A range of small and large school districts in at least 44 states have taken steps to push back school start times in order to maximize students’ sleep time. In April, Maryland passed a bill incentivizing schools to delay school start times, and New Jersey lawmakers are currently studying the issue.
Here’s why Snider, pediatricians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention think more districts and states should follow suit.

Most Schools Start Really Early

In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement recommending that middle and high schools start classes after 8:30 a.m.

According to Department of Education data from the 2011-2012 school year analyzed by the CDC, only a small share of districts were doing so. About 17.7 percent of middle and high schools started after 8:30. The average start time was 8:03 a.m., with 75 to 100 percent of schools in 42 different states starting classes before 8:30 a.m.

Early start times like these cause teens to be severely sleep-deprived. The AAP recommends that teens get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night, but over 90 percent of of teens are chronically sleep-deprived, according to a 2014 report.

Sleep Deprivation Is Bad For Learning

A lack of sleep can have a devastating impact on kids’ futures. Sleep-deprived students are more likely to be overweight, anxious, depressed, have suicidal thoughts, perform poorly academically and engage in risky behaviors, according to the CDC.

Later school start times are proven to improve academic performance.

A 2012 study found that students who started school an hour later than usual saw their math scores on standardized tests increase an average 2.2 percentage points and reading scores increase an average 1.5 percentage points. They also watched less television, spent more time on homework and had fewer absences, the research found.

“Start times really do matter,” Finley Edwards, author of the study, told The Huffington Post in 2012. “We can see clear increases of academic performance from just starting school later.”

Snider, who has a Ph.D. in the history of medicine, first learned about this issue as a medical writer in the 1980s, but it started to hit home as she raised her three kids.

She learned that schools didn’t always start so early and that this type of sleep deprivation was a relatively new phenomenon.

“Nobody is going to tell you it’s good for kids’ health or safety or learning to start class at 7 in the morning,” Snider said.

The Reason There’s Resistance To Changing The System

When Snider’s kids were in school, she worked hard to push school times later, with little success. School start times deeply impact many aspects of community life and are difficult to change, she learned.
“School hours affect everybody in the community, whether or not you have kids. The time the public school runs will affect what time the parks and recreation department can have after-school classes, what times the sports leagues can run, what times school athletics can practice, what time daycare hours are, what time traffic gets bad because of the school buses, what time local employers can hire kids after school; it affects the whole town,” she said.

“It’s those sorts of interests, which are perfectly understandable, and fears which lead people to say, ‘Don’t change, because I had to jump through hoops to make my life work, and now you’re going to change my life,’” Snider said.

Still, delaying school start times doesn’t always mean that kids will get more sleep. Students may just stay up later, according to a study published this year in the journal Sleep. The efforts can also end up being costly. In 2015, Fairfax County spent $5 million to delay school start times nearly an hour, according to the Capital Gazette.

But advocates argue that the benefits outweigh the costs.

“Many people are for this change, but they might say it’s impossible to do, they’re going to tell you it’s too expensive,” said Snider. “We do have so many success stories. The real issue isn’t those things. It’s more fear of change and failure of imagination, because people don’t realize that when you fix a problem, there’s not one way to do it.”

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Harold Meyerson | LA Times |

Jun 10, 2016  ::  What should California’s Bernie Brigades do now? How should they proceed with the revolution once the Democratic convention formally bestows its nomination on Hillary Clinton?

If Sanders backers (or, for that matter, Clinton supporters) want to involve themselves in politics, there are a number of elections right here in California in which a keystone issue of the socialist’s campaign – breaking the hold that big money has on our system – is effectively on the ballot.

For even as Sanders was thundering against the corrosive role of money in politics and Clinton was condemning the plutocratic consequences of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporate money was carving an ever larger role for itself in California politics – California Democratic politics.

Over the past two years, oil companies and “education reform” billionaires have been funding campaigns for obliging Democratic candidates running against their more progressive co-partisans under the state’s “top-two” election process. In this week’s primary, independent committees spent at least $24 million, with most of that money flowing to Democrats who opposed Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to halve motorists’ use of fossil fuels by 2030, and a substantial sum going to Democrats who support expanding charter schools.

Six years ago, according to the Associated Press, just one legislative primary race had more than $1 million in outside spending, and four had more than $500,000. This year, eight races saw more than $1 million in such spending, and 15 more than $500,000.

In a heavily Democratic district outside Sacramento, a November state Senate runoff will pit Democratic Assemblyman Bill Dodd, who opposed Brown’s legislation, against former Democratic Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada. Dodd has already benefited from one independent campaign funded by Chevron and other energy companies to the tune of more than $270,000, and from an education reform campaign funded by charter school proponents such as billionaire Eli Broad in the amount of $1.68 million.

The combination of [a] top-two election system with free-flowing outside spending has given rise to a new birth of corporate power in Sacramento.

In a nearby overwhelmingly Democratic assembly district, two Democratic candidates with strong environmental credentials lost out in this week’s primary to a Republican and a Democrat who benefited from more than $1.2 million from charter school advocates and an additional $650,000 from Chevron, Tesoro, Valero and other oil companies.

A similar dynamic has shaped a San Bernardino Assembly contest in which Democratic incumbent Cheryl Brown has been bolstered by major oil company expenditures in her race against Democrat Eloise Reyes.

These contests reflect the new reality of California politics. Businesses that previously would have backed Republicans – oil companies and real estate investors in particular – have responded to the GOP’s electoral eclipse by shifting their contributions to malleable, more conservative Democrats. These Democrats would not prevail in a closed primary system, but have a better chance than Republicans in a general election because they’re not associated with that toxic – to Californians – brand. (They appeal to some Democratic voters and to some Republican ones, who have no better choice.) In this sense, the top-two system helps corporate interests like Chevron.

In some races, unions and such wealthy environmentalists as Tom Steyer have answered the flood of corporate money with a torrent of their own, but the balance remains heavily weighted toward business.

The combination of this top-two election system with free-flowing outside spending has given rise to a new birth of corporate power in Sacramento, in the form of the self-proclaimed Moderate Caucus of Democrats. Aligning themselves with their Republican colleagues, caucus members have blocked a range of environmental and pro-worker reforms. Late last year, Assemblyman Henry Perea of Fresno, who’d headed the caucus since 2012, resigned to take a government relations job with Chevron.

So what’s a California Bernie bro – or for that matter, a Hillary sis – to do? Joining together (because the environmental and liberal groups that backed Clinton oppose the Moderate Caucus’ handiwork as much as the Sanderistas do), they should support the progressive legislative candidates whom the oil companies and charter school advocates seek to defeat. They should work to repeal the top-two primary, through which organized money has increased its clout in Sacramento. And they should work to elect a presidential candidate – her name is Clinton – who will appoint justices who will overturn Citizens United.

You say you want a revolution? This would be a good place to start.

Harold Meyerson is executive editor of the American Prospect. He is a contributing writer to Opinion.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

¿Helping Howard?

8 June 2016  ::  An afternoon  Blizzard o' Tweets from LA Times Education Reporter Howard Blume commencing at 1sh.

@howardblume: I need teachers' voices on deadline on state of teacher evals in LAUSD. Send comments and/or contact info:

@howardblume: You also could comment on other aspects of revised contract: targeted class size reduction; p.e. caps; added counseling days, etc.

 @howardblume: And to what extent do u believe district financial picture is as dire as claimed. Will there be a reckoning? Good or bad time to teach?

@howardblume: I also need parent voices on all of the above. So, parents, please weigh in as well. Students also welcomed.