Letter: I cannot support school start time legislation
To the editor:
The growing interest in high school start time is a reflection of the compelling research demonstrating the unique sleep cycles of adolescents and the potential consequences of sleep deficit. This issue is receiving a large focus and I appreciate Representative Casimaro's interest in this issue.
Though I believe the science to be strong, I believe that mandating a statewide implementation of a high school start time is tempered by the following competing issues:
1. Conflicting statewide educational budget needs — including the continuation of funding for the Statewide Funding Formula, statewide school construction funds needed to address a tremendous backlog of deteriorating public school buildings and a strong push for additional education aid to help offset high local property taxes.
2. There has long been a reluctance in the General Assembly to impose any additional “unfunded” mandates on districts. If the cost of transportation for a start time change exceeds the $200,000 amount, the remaining costs would be considered “an unfunded mandate.”
3. Rhode Island has historically given individual districts autonomy to determine what is best in terms of scheduling for their unique district with each superintendent having to grapple with issues specific to their communities
It is for these reasons that at this time I cannot support the state mandating a statewide change to the school start times of all public Rhode Island high schools.
I strongly believe that there might be other ways to help address student stress that don’t have such a budget impact and urge all stake holders to research and implement them.
Again, I thank you for contacting me. I appreciate that my District 66 constituents are engaged and active in their communities as that activism only makes our communities better.
Rep. Joy Hearn