An alliance of community members representing a range of organizations descended onto the Bell Gardens City Council on its first February 2021 meeting.
Speaking first, Christine Dimas identified herself as an organizer with Save Montebello Unified School District (MUSD). Students living in Bell Gardens are served by MUSD, and Dimas called for the City Council to establish a “moratorium of 10 years on the building of charter schools in the City and to request that zoning laws stay in order to prevent converting buildings or businesses already zoned into school zones.”
Pointing to financial difficulties at MUSD, Dimas argued “10 years is enough time to give the MUSD leadership the opportunity to turn the Districts around.” Such measures would ward off charter schools in the City, as these schools have been pushing for expansion into Southeast Los Angeles County during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dimas further faulted the State Board of Education and the Los Angeles County Office of Education for their enabling of charter schools even in spite of local opposition, including from the MUSD leadership.
Tevina Quintana, who works in Bell Gardens and is a resident of Cudahy organizing with Cudahy United, joined Dimas in urging the Council to establish a moratorium against charter schools. “Their goal is to eventually privatize education and we cannot let this happen,” she said, pointing specifically at KIPP charter schools.
Another member of the public, Star Laca, said “charter schools do not have the best interest of our children as their priority. Their sole priorities are money and to privatize education putting our children's needs last.” Jasmine Garcia, resident of East Los Angeles, said “I've seen the negative impacts that corporate charter schools can have on a community. They take resources from existing public schools and impact quality of life issues—they had traffic pollution and economic dead zones when a commercial property is replaced with a school without an environmental study or community input.”
Lu Cruz, a MUSD teacher, said that charter schools are “siphoning off resources” and compared public schools favorably to charter schools, as public schools “have an open door policy and our business model does not include growing our profits by turning away kids with special needs kids, foster living arrangements, homeless kids.” She said public school teachers “continue to welcome all our kids regardless of their circumstances.”
Victor Frias, a teacher in Cudahy and MUSD alumnus, criticized charter schools’ practice of co-location, calling it a “colonizer tactic” due to the use of public resources by KIPP and other charter schools. “KIPP is aggressive and relentlessly even going on as far as to slap a restraining order on an LAUSD parent who was peacefully protesting KIPP. They are a corporation with no regard to the health, safety, and education of our students,” he said.
Finally, Julie Regalado, an organizer with Eastside Padres Contra la Privatizacion, said “it is not right that during such hard times, during a pandemic, charter corporations go on about their business. Just take a look at East Los Angeles area there is a charter school in every corner it has gotten out of control. A moratorium is much needed because charter schools is another word for privatization.”
The Bell Gardens City Council has yet to discuss or establish such a moratorium. A listing of members and public contact information appears below.
Mayor Marco Barcena | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Pro Tem Maria Pulido | (323) 516-8088
Council Member Jorgel Chavez | Jchavez@bellgardens.org
Councilwoman Alejandra Cortez | ACortez@bellgardens.org
Councilwoman Lisseth Flores | LFlores@bellgardens.org