ALIBU—The city of Malibu is moving closer to having a separate school district from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District after a public County hearing on Saturday, September 18. According to a news release from the city of Malibu website, the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s County Committee on School District Organization (County Committee) held a preliminary hearing on the City’s petition to separate from SM-MUSD and form an independent Malibu Unified School District (MUSD).

The preliminary hearing began on April 18, when hundreds of Malibu residents, students and parents logged on to share their views with the County Committee. Community members voiced support of an independent MUSD. Some presenters from the SM-MUSD agreed that separation should be accomplished under financial terms that are fair and equitable for both jurisdictions.

“I want to thank all the Malibu parents, students and community members that participated in the County hearing, shared their experiences with SM-MUSD and voiced their support for school district separation, and I want to convey our appreciation to the County Committee for its attention to this critical community issue. We are all very pleased with their decision to move the City’s petition forward,” said Mayor Paul Grisanti.

After hearing presentations from the city of Malibu and SMMUSD and public testimony, the County Committee voted 8 to 2 to move the Malibu’s petition forward into the regular petition process. It will allow the city to demonstrate its petition will substantially meet all nine of the criteria for school district organization established by the California Department of Education.

The County Committee vote was the next step in an effort to separate from SMMUSD and follows close to five years of efforts to negotiate with the district on the financial terms of separation. In September 2015, the Malibu City Council adopted a resolution to authorize the submittal of a petition to the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools.

In 2016, the city council and the SMMUSD School Board formed the Malibu Unification Negotiations Committee (MUNC) to decide the financial concerns surrounding school separation. The MUNC met regularly for over a year and developed recommendations for separation which were rejected by the School Board. In November 2017, the Malibu City Council made a motion to submit the petition and request that the preliminary public hearing be postponed as requested by the School Board.

In March 2018, the SMMUSD School Board approved a framework for Malibu unification. In April 2018, the Malibu City Council accepted the District’s framework in principal and directed the City’s Ad Hoc Committee on School District Separation to negotiate with SMMUSD representatives.

Back in August 2018, the District made its only offer to the city of Malibu, where during the negotiations, the city’s four different counter-proposals went unanswered by the District. Malibu accepted the District’s August 2018 offer with a few concessions, and the District refused to settle. In October 2020, after recognizing that the District was negotiating in bad faith, the Malibu City Council requested that the County Committee move forward with the city’s preliminary petition.

With the recent vote from the County Committee, Malibu’s petition will now enter the County Committee’s regular petition process with prescribed timelines and evaluation criteria. In accordance with this established process, the County Committee will hold a public meeting or public meetings within 60 days, followed by a public hearing to the review the feasibility report and vote on the City’s petition.

During this time, Malibu will gather information from  the SMMUSD and work with County Committee staff to develop the feasibility report and demonstrate once and for all that the city’s proposal sufficiently addresses all nine of the State’s criteria.

The city of Malibu continues to ask the SMMUSD to return to the negotiation table and agree to binding arbitration as the County Committee’s consultant School Services of California recommends.

“While the City remains open to negotiations, the District’s failure to honor any of its promises at the bargaining table leads the City to believe that third-party, binding negotiations are necessary,” said Deputy City Attorney Christine Wood. The District formally rejected the city’s offer to binding arbitration, on September 9, 2021.

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