City Will Continue Working With School District on Separation

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Malibu City Council voted unanimously, 5-0, Monday to continue negotiations with the school district over separation, despite some grumblings from council members over the proposed 50-year financing period. 

“I will support whatever you guys suggest,” Council Member Lou La Monte said, adding, “I have serious concerns about mortgaging our children’s education for the next 50 years.”

Longtime separation advocate—and negotiator—Council Member Laura Rosenthal disagreed with La Monte’s description.

“I don’t think we’re mortgaging anything,” Rosenthal said. “If nothing happened, it would still be the same. We would still be sharing resources.”

Monday’s decision essentially means the city is backing off its aggressive push to move separation forward—and heading back to the bargaining table. 

The city’s aggressive move to circumvent the school district has been going forward in fits and starts in recent months.

In September, council submitted a petition to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, requesting they begin looking into separation—or “unification,” as it’s called, as Malibu will be unifying into its own district.

Just a couple months later, at the urging of AMPS (Advocates for Malibu Public Schools) and the school board, the city amended its request, essentially leaving open the door for a financial agreement.

That door seemed to close in February, as council reached out to LACOE to again ask them to move forward with creating a Malibu-only district, no longer wishing to wait for harmony with the district.

Last month, the school district said it would be willing to negotiate—but only if the city backs down once again. Now, the pause button has been pushed—or, as council members describe it, the “negotiations phase” begins.

“I look forward to a harmonious negotiation phase with Santa Monica, and designate City of Malibu staff members to negotiate under the review and supervision of the ad hoc committee,” Mayor Rick Mullen said Monday. The ad hoc committee includes Mullen and Rosenthal.

This is not the first “negotiations phase” the city has been involved with.

For two years, a committee made up of members of the Santa Monica and Malibu communities, including Rosenthal, negotiated for a financial agreement, before that suggestion was unceremoniously dumped by the school board.

Council is asking LACOE to formally accept the petition once and for all before putting it on pause, so that the county can help facilitate negotiations going forward—and so it would be ready to once again be dusted off if negotiations go south.

“Withdrawing might actually be detrimental to our efforts, because once it is accepted, LACOE can help with the negotiation, they can provide some expertise, give us feedback,” Rosenthal said. “Also, having the petition accepted keeps the topic active for the county committee.