MALIBU—On Saturday, April 17, the city of Malibu presented its petition to create an independent Malibu Unified School District to the Los Angeles County Office of Education‘s County Committee on School District Organization (County Committee) at a preliminary public hearing.
“The City of Malibu is encouraged by the overwhelming support for an independent Malibu Unified School District,” said Malibu Mayor Mikke Pierson. “It’s time for Malibu residents to have local control over their schools, and the hearing was the first of many steps. One of the next steps is to work with County officials to help both parties settle what is fair and equitable.”
Over 300 people attended the hearing and heard testimony from both communities. “Virtually no one testified that Malibu should not have its own school district. Even the presenters from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SM-MUSD) suggested that the parties continue to negotiate how best to accomplish school separation,” the city of Malibu stated in a press release.
Malibu is hoping the County Committee issues a tentative recommendation in support of the city’s petition, allowing Malibu to continue through the unification process.
The city is not excluding any path to unification, and “is not optimistic about returning to the negotiations given SMMUSD’s history of negotiating in bad faith.”
The city of Malibu is focused on its commitment to the legal framework that governs unification in California and believes working with LACOE and its school finance expert, School Services of California is a way to develop a separation plan that is fair and legal.
On April 16, the Board of Education of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SM-MUSD) voted to reject an offer from the city of Malibu in its ongoing effort to create an independent Malibu Unified School District. In that offer, on April 14, the Malibu City Council proposed that both sides commit to allowing school finance experts hired by the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) County Committee on School District Organization to develop recommendations for fair and equitable terms of separation.
“I am deeply disappointed that the SM-MUSD Board of Education, which is elected to represent the students of Santa Monica and Malibu, choose to reject the City’s most recent reasonable settlement offer. The City has repeatedly made it clear that we do not want to see any student harmed by the long-overdue separation of this discontinuous school district yet SM-MUSD continues to be unreasonable while our Malibu students continue to be harmed,” said Mayor Mikke Pierson. “I look forward to going before the LACOE County Committee of School District Separation tomorrow and explaining to them why it’s time for Malibu to have its own school district and encourage all Malibu residents to do the same.”
On March 12, after hearing the District made new public overtures in support of separation, the city of Malibu proposed a tax-sharing agreement that would transfer property tax revenue from Malibu to Santa Monica for up to 10 years in the event SM-MUSD’s per-pupil funding dips below its current level. The proposal identified $50 million in other local funding (grants, sales taxes, rental income, redevelopment funds, and parent/business donations) that SM-MUSD receives every year beyond state education funding and property tax sources which Santa Monica will be able to retain in separation.
The city’s counter proposal to SM-MUSD is available to view at: https://www.malibucity.org/DocumentCenter/View/27898/Malibu-City-Counter-Offer-to-SM-MUSD–04132021.
On April 16, the SM-MUSD Board of Education voted to reject the City’s reasonable offer that LACOE and School Services, impartial third parties with extensive school finance expertise, determine the financial terms of separation. For more information, visit the Malibu Unified School District web page at www.malibucity.org/MUSD.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School indicated in a press release “petition for unification would create irreparable harm to both Santa Monica and Malibu; specifically, in the areas of diversity, equity, educational programs and finances.”
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District argued the city of Malibu failed to provide current data or statistics to justify the financial methodology of their proposal nor did they explain the fact that recent studies have demonstrated that, given future population projections, the city of Malibu would not have enough students to sustain a stand-alone district. The proposed Malibu School District would take a disproportionate share of funding resources –33 percent of shared property taxes for 12.2 percent of students. Concerns were also raised about how the new Malibu Unified School District would address its lack of diversity.
“It was clear from the diverse and broad base of support from speakers opposing the petition that the lack of equity and fairness in the City petition was at the forefront of their minds,” remarked Board President Jon Kean. “The City also failed to acknowledge that SMMUSD presented a working methodology for an equitable unification that the City “begrudgingly” accepted before leaving the table. We would eagerly welcome them back for a conversation that is shorter on grievances and longer on facts and solutions.”
“One of the elements that has always made our district so strong is the fact that we are comprised of a diverse mix of students from every socio-economic and racial demographic,” Dr. Ben Drati, Superintendent, SMMUSD said. “As someone who has devoted his entire career to educating children, it would be extremely heart breaking to see a district formed that, by virtue of its makeup, would ill prepare students to navigate the diversity of the world.”