Huntington Park leaders want to ban new charter schools for a year

The small, densely populated city of Huntington Park is peppered with schools, about two dozen in 3 square miles. At least 10 are charters, and city leaders contend they’re bringing in unwanted traffic. 

Their solution is to try to ban new charter schools.

Huntington Park City Council members voted 4 to 1 late Tuesday to extend a moratorium on new charter schools until September 2017.

Both charter advocates and opponents were at the council meeting, each side armed with public speakers, wearing color-coordinated T-shirts and carrying signs.

At the back of the chambers, one woman sat holding a white poster above her head that proclaimed, “Give us a chance” and “Save our charter schools.” On the side of the full room, another woman stood holding a yellow poster in front of her that read, “Stand up to unregulated charter schools!”

Outside the meeting room, people on both sides lined the hallway. Some argued with each other about their goals, while others cheered loudly when they heard something they liked.

During public comment, parents and teachers addressed the council in English and Spanish, with charter parents extolling the quality education their kids receive because of school choice, while teachers from United Teachers Los Angeles talked about the schools they’ve taught in for years and supported city officials’ efforts to ban new charter schools for a year.

Last month, Huntington Park City Council members voted 4 to 1 to place a temporary, 45-day moratorium on new charters in the city. On Tuesday, they voted to extend that restriction for 10 months and 15 days, effectively making the ban yearlong. 

Charter schools are publicly funded but often are privately run. Unlike most traditional public schools, they can accept students from anywhere, not just from the neighborhoods around them.

Huntington Park Mayor Graciela Ortiz isn’t sure drawing students from elsewhere is in the best interest of the city. She also said she wants to see a greater focus on revitalizing businesses.

The city once was a cultural and shopping destination for Mexican and Central American immigrants in southeast Los Angeles County, but local businesses have struggled recently.

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