Malibu Wants a Divorce, and Santa Monica is OK With It

LA County School Organization Panel to Review Malibu School District Separation Petition April 17

By Stan Greene, Observer Staff Writer

Over the last 25 years, Malibu has repeatedly threatened to form its own school district and leave SMMUSD. At last week's City Council meeting, the Santa Monica City Council affirmed its support for splitting Santa Monica and Malibu into two separate independent school districts. It listed a number of caveats, however

The terms of separation, including the division of revenues and assets, "have to be fair and just to students in Santa Monica schools and must provide a robust and equal educational opportunity for both Malibu and Santa Monica students," the councilmembers said in a statement.

"The Santa Monica City Council will continue to advocate for what is just and what serves the common good of Santa Monica and Malibu students and families alike," said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. "Slashing diversity and per pupil funding for Santa Monica students alone is inappropriate and will damage academic and social equity across all of the students and families served by SMMUSD."

The motion came at the request of Mayor Sue Himmelrich, Mayor Pro Tem Kristin McCowan and Councilmember Phil Brock after for the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization (LACOE) announced it plans to hear Malibu's petition to split from SMMUSD on April 17.

Last October, the Malibu City Council re-petitioned LACOE to intervene after accusing the school district of "negotiating in bad faith."

At the meeting, attorneys for the City of Malibu called the negotiations "remarkably unsuccessful," according to a report in the Malibu Times. They maintained SMMUSD was asking Malibu taxpayers to contribute $4 billion over the first 50 years, which is "far, far, far above what is required by the California Department of Education guidelines."

In a letter sent on March 10 to the members of the LAOCE, Mayor Sue Himmelrich and Mayor Pro Tem Kristin McCowan wrote: "The Malibu Petition would jeopardize this careful balance and the wellbeing of all SMMUSD students by reducing per pupil expenditures for Santa Monica students for the next quarter century while creating a far better funded and significantly less diverse Malibu USD."

SMMUSD projections show that in year one of divided districts "Malibu USD would be approximately 78.4% white with per pupil funding starting at $27,651, while Santa Monica USD would be funded at only $13,759 per pupil (less than half the per pupil expenditure for Malibu USD students)," the letter said. "This dramatic inequity would only worsen over time: Pursuant to the proposed formula for revenue growth, Malibu schools would receive approximately $37,599 per student in year five, while Santa Monica per student funding would be $15,486."

The letter continued: "Because the Malibu Petition would be in grave disservice to SMMUSD students, we implore you to disapprove the Malibu Petition and to ensure that, if SMMUSD is to split into two separate districts, the division of revenues and assets will be fair and just to students in Santa Monica schools and provide robust and equal educational opportunities for both Malibu and Santa Monica students,"

Malibu initially filed a petition with LACOE on August 31, 2017 seeking to split from the local District.


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