SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Should high schoolers be required to wake before dawn to get to their earliest classes? Should they just be expected to go to bed earlier to get a full night of sleep? Or should schools start later?
These are the questions lawmakers are considering with a proposed memorial. House Memorial 56, sponsored by Joy Garratt (D-Abq.), would direct the Legislative Education Study Committee to look into the pros and cons of adjusting start times in New Mexico high schools. Monday, the House Education Committee debated the idea.
“Increasingly, there’s a recognition of the impact, the adverse impact, on the mental and physical health of our adolescent population because of early start times,” Garratt explained to the House Education Committee. And Garratt says there’s a range of potential benefits to starting school later. “There’s better mental and physical health, improved academic outcomes, including higher test scores,” and other thing, she added.
Vivian, a high school freshman from Albuquerque, told the committee why the issue needs to be studied: “Improving educational outcomes is important for everyone in the government,” Vivian said. “I learned one of the biggest elements for me doing well in school is something that I have no control over, but you as the government do . . . the one element that I have no control over is what time school starts.”
Supporters of the memorial pointed to research that shows just how important sleep is for academic performance and health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that teenagers get eight to 10 hours of sleep per day.
A member of the public, a parent, pointed out that in order to get to “zero hour” classes, their teenager has to wake up at 5:30 a.m. “Anybody who has a teenager knows that teenagers are not naturally supposed to be waking up at 5:30 in the morning,” they added.
Rep. Tanya Mirabal Moya (R-Valencia) said studying start times is a good idea but that maybe there shouldn’t be just one time all schools are required to start at. But not all the legislators had sympathy for early-waking kids.
“Maybe some of these younger people need to realize that you don’t stay on the freaking phone texting your buddies at 12:30 in the morning,” Candy Spence Ezzell (R-Roswell) said. “Parents, take control of your kids. That’s what it boils down to.”
Despite some criticism, the committee voted to move the memorial forward Monday, February 27. Because it’s a “simple memorial,” it does not need approval from the Senate or the Governor. It only needs to pass the House in order to kick off a study of school start times.