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Charter schools challenge Huntington Park moratorium

HUNTINGTON PARK — A lawsuit challenging the city’s moratorium on charter schools has been filed by the Los Angeles-based California Charter School Association and is set for trial April 3 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Department 28, said Jason Mandell, director of advocacy communications for the association.

The suit was filed Nov. 3 after the City Council Oct. 18 extended for another 10 months the initial 45-day moratorium that was approved Sept. 6. State law allows moratoriums to last for up to two years for land use issues, City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman said.

“The lawsuit centers on the moratorium’s conflict with California policy of educational choice mandated under the California Charter Schools Act, and the city’s failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act,” Mandell said.

The charter association is seeking a court order setting aside and invalidating the moratorium. In particular, the association asks the court to direct Huntington Park to consider the legislative intent and purposes of the Charter Schools Act prior to reconsidering any new urgency ordinance regulating charter schools, he added.

Alvarez-Glasman did not respond to calls for comment, but during the City Council discussions last fall he said charter schools were a land use issue. City Manager Edgar Cisneros said staff needed time to review zoning and decide where a charter school might be located that would be safe for those students and not cause problems such as traffic congestion for residents.

Charter school representatives protested Sept. 20, saying there is a long waiting list of area students seeking to enroll in a charter school and the moratorium “wastes their time and delays the beginning of a quality education.”

Charter schools are publicly funded and operate separately from public schools, but need permission from the public school district governing their site.

Charters operating in the South Gate and Huntington Park area do so with permission of the Los Angeles Unified School District. A number of people at the council meeting last Oct. 18 identified themselves as residents and teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District and supported the moratorium’s extension.

They maintained that public school students generally do as well as those in charter schools and protested that many charter schools hire less qualified teachers with no background checks. Some alleged that charter schools take state money from public schools and often are aimed at making a profit for school officials.

The initial moratorium and the extension were approved on 4-1 votes with Councilman Valentin Amezquita dissenting. Councilwoman Karina Macias said she feared charter schools would take up commercial space, which is needed for businesses and production of revenue to the city.

 

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