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Democrats, women most supportive of proposal to push start back to 8:30
A bill currently being considered by the New Jersey State Legislature to push back high school start times has the support of a majority of New Jersey residents, with women and Democrats being the most likely to say that they favor it. According to the latest results from the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll (FDU) 55 percent of residents say that they favor the measure, with 30 percent opposed.
“A lot of politics is about big picture, symbolically powerful measures that let elected officials send a signal about their priorities to voters,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the director of the poll. “But it’s smaller measures like this that often do more to impact people’s everyday lives.”
The bill, S2462 in the State Senate and A3816 in the State Assembly, was referred to the Education Committee in the Senate and Assembly last year. The sponsors of the bill argue that later start times will help teenagers get more sleep; lack of sleep among young people is considered to be a chronic problem. Opponents have argued that pushing start times back could impact high school athletics: during some months, a later start time could mean that practice times would continue after sunset. The rule would apply to all schools – including charters and vocational schools – that receive state aid. All of the bill’s sponsors and co-sponsors in both chambers are Democrats.
Support is highest among Democrats (65 percent), with Republicans evenly split on the issue (42 percent supporting, 42 percent opposing). Women (62 percent) are also more likely to support the measure than men (48 percent). A substantial number (15 percent) of residents say that they’re not sure where they stand on the issue, or refuse to answer the question.
“When people don’t know much about an issue, they fall back on their partisanship to figure out what they should think about it,” said Cassino. “In a case like this, where there isn’t a clear partisan stance, a lot of people wind up not knowing what to think.”
Interestingly, there is no difference in support for the bill between residents who say that they currently have children living with them at home, and those who do not. Support is 56 percent among residents with minor children living with them, and 54 percent among those without children.
The question was asked in this way: “Currently, high schools in New Jersey start as early as 7:30 in the morning. One bill would require that high schools at 8:30 or later. Students would stay later to get the same amount of class time.”
(Photo courtesy of the New Jersey chapter of the American Association of Pediatrics.)