La Palma is a city of just under 16,000 in northwest Orange County. It is 1.8 square miles in area, making it the smallest city by area in the county. Despite its small size, it is served by five school districts, two of which have no school facilities within the community. Many students therefore are assigned to a school which is not the one closest to their home and is not within La Palma.
For high school students, this means residents living north of Houston attend Buena Park High School, on average about 4 miles from La Palma students, rather than John F. Kennedy High School located within La Palma at an average distance for students north of Houston of 1.25 miles.
Early in 2015, the City of La Palma conducted a survey of residents north of Houston Avenue about high school choice. When asked if they supported legislation which would allow high school residents north of Houston to choose to attend Kennedy High School in La Palma rather than their home school in Buena Park, 98.59% or 210 answered yes and 0.94% or 2 answered no (0.47% or one person was unsure). When asked if they had a high school aged student, where they would send them to school if they had a choice, 0.49% or 1 answered Buena Park High School. 99.51% or 203 answered John F. Kennedy High School. Additionally, of the 214 total respondents, 104 submitted their name and contact information indicating they would like to become more involved in this issue, or almost 49% of all respondents. These results indicate there is overwhelming resident demand in La Palma for legislation to allow for high school choice and if given that choice, an overwhelming majority of residents would send their high school aged student to JFK High School. Residents feel so strongly about the issue that they provided an outstanding response rate of almost 32% and a high number of individuals willing to give their personal contact information to the City in order to become more active in advocating on the issue.
Assemblywoman Young Kim has introduced AB 523 (2015) the Open Enrollment Act, which would allow all La Palma residents to apply for a transfer if needed to be able to attend high school in La Palma. No school district boundaries would change, residents would simply have a choice. On March 17, 2015, the La Palma City Council voted unanimously to support this legislation.
March 26, 2015 - AB523 is scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly Education Committee on April 8. It is very important to demonstrate strong community support. The City is collecting letters of support to send on to the Committee. Please return letters to the City no later than 5 p.m. on April 3. More info in the documents section below.
April 8, 2015 - The proposed legislation was heard by the Assembly Education Committee on April 8. Although the bill was defeated on 4-1 vote, it is not dead and will be reconsidered by the Committee in January 2016. The Committee did not pass the bill at this time due to their concern that this was a local issue. Fullerton Joint Union High School District has agreed to meet with the City to discuss the problem in the next few weeks.
August 18, 2015 - The City Council adopted a Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to
Develop and Submit a Petition for Territory Transfer to the Orange County Committee on District Organization for High School Education Purposes.
September 15, 2015 - After filing the petition, the City learned that the State Education Code requires that high school districts have the same boundary lines as their corresponding feeder schools (i.e. elementary and middle schools).Therefore, the City Council directed the City Manager to withdraw the petition submitted to the Orange County Committee on School District Organization and conduct further research prior to bringing the issue back to the City Council.