California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) Sues Huntington Park to Keep Its Traffic Problem
On October 18, 2016, the Huntington Park (Los Angeles) City Council voted 4 to 1 to enact a moratorium on establishing new charter schools in its 3-square-mile jurisdiction. The tiny area is already home to 30 schools (12 charters); so many schools in the limited area are posing problems for Huntington Park, including traffic congestion.
Note that it isn’t the number of traditional public schools that is expanding; it’s the number of charter schools.
Note also that 30 schools in 3 square miles equals an average of ten schools in a single square mile.
The Huntington Park city council’s decision to put the establishment of future charter schools on hold for a year was met with displeasure by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).
So, it should come as little surprise that on November 01, 2016, CCSA decided to sue Huntington Park in an attempt to prevent the moratorium.
Interestingly, the CCSA’s central argument is that CCSA provided “unrefuted expert evidence demonstrating that the moratorium would displace charter school development, along with their resulting ‘vehicle circulation, parking, and noise’… to neighboring communities.
In other words, CCSA wants California’s Superior Court to tell Huntington Park that it will just have to put up with as much traffic and noise as can be packed within its 3-square-mile boundary via the establishment of as many charter schools as CCSA cares to push onto Huntington Park.
CCSA maintains that “CCSA and its member schools are harmed and will continue to suffer injury unless and until this Court grants the requested relief.” However, Huntington Park is not shutting down existing charter schools, only putting a year-long hold on establishing new ones. Therefore, no CCSA schools are harmed. On the contrary, existing schools (both charter and traditional public) could be spared the problems of increased traffic congestion from the opening of more than the existing 30 schools within Huntington Park’s 3-square-mile area.
CCSA purports that 662 students are on charter school waitlists, and it seems to purport that the waitlist proves that more charters are in order in Huntington Park. However, there is no such animal as a traditional public school waitlist to which to compare the oft-touted charter waitlist; if a student leaves a charter school, that student is immediately admitted into a public school. So, any mention of waitlist should be accompanied by numbers of students exiting the charters to return to traditional public schools.
And CCSA should offer evidence that its waitlist includes no duplicate names or names of students later enrolled, or even that those on the waitlist really care about getting accepted.
CCSA includes percentages of traditional public school enrollment decline (13.8 percent) and charter school enrollment (27.1 percent) over the last five years. However, actual student counts would tell a clearer story, as would actual counts of students who leave the charter schools midyear in order to return to traditional public schools– and details regarding which school gets that “one less dollar allocated to the school district” (as the suit notes) when students leave charters and return to district-run schools.
CCSA tries to paint Huntington Park as “succumb[ing] to such anti-charter school sentiment and political pressure in this election year” in voting on its charter school moratorium. But the reality is that having 30 schools within 3 square miles is ridiculous, and it isn’t the district that is currently starting new schools.
Indeed, the suit notes that the district schools suffer from overcrowding and therefore calls the city council’s charter school moratorium “inconsistent.” However, the city council wants a year to consider a course of action without continuing to open new schools to further crowd its jurisdiction. If so many separate schools were not already in operation in Huntington Park, there would be potentially more room to expand existing schools more efficiently (fewer, larger schools, possibly) and to more efficiently manage traffic. Furthermore, the overcrowding in district schools is likely exacerbated by the limiting effects of funding lost to mushrooming charter schools.
Despite CCSA’s crying “anti-charter sentiment,” charter school proliferation has an obvious down side: It is inefficient.
According to publicschoolreview.com, Huntington Park has 18,793 students in its 30 schools (both district and charter). Of that number, 3,781 students (20 percent) are enrolled in 11 charter schools (one charter has no enrollment). The remaining 15,012 (80 percent) are enrolled in the 18 district schools.
Even if the charter school waitlist of 662 students is accurate, it only represents 4 percent of the students enrolled in the 18 district schools.
However, given that the charter schools enroll on average 344 students per school (3,781/11) and the district schools, an average of 834 students per school (15,012/18), it takes 2.5 charter schools on average to educate the same number of students as are educated in one district school– which contributes to an absurd number of schools already in such a small city.
But CCSA wants the right to expand that absurd number within Huntington Park based on the argument that Huntington Park has no right to sweep its charter school proliferation problems into neighboring jurisdictions.
California charter school expansion is an equal opportunity burden– so saith CCSA. Still, it is not a given that the Huntington Park moratorium will “force” future charter schools to open in neighboring jurisdictions. Also, the current lawsuit has not been filed by a neighboring jurisdiction, instead being filed by an entity that operates outside of the authority of any local jurisdiction and without the authority to do so on behalf of any local jurisdiction.
The reality is that CCSA needs to kill this local-charter-school-moratorium idea or other California city councils might follow suit with such corporate-reform-threatening, local-control actions.
Local action is bad for privatization. CCSA knows as much.