Guest Column: Let’s Talk Bad Faith

Craig Foster

Letter addressed to Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati: Dr. Drati, your recent email to all school district parents was equal parts deeply offensive, wildly hypocritical and completely inappropriate.

The City of Malibu recently chose to withdraw from fruitless, never-ending negotiations with SMMUSD and, instead, to take its grievances to the proper authorities. That is not bad faith; that is common sense after five years of constantly receding goal posts in what has become an utterly selfish, bordering on narcissistic, school district bargaining position. Please spare us your talk of “equity” when your district and ours and any combination thereof will have more money per student than 99.9 percent of California’s 1,000 school districts. You want “equity?” How about you give $4,000 per student to Compton Unified right now to create “equity” where it really means equity. What you mean is extortion: Malibu gives you $4 billion over the next 50 years for the right to what every other school district in this state has by law: contiguous borders and local control.

This is not an abstract political exercise. Under Santa Monica’s rule, Malibu’s lost 35 percent of our students in six years. Our 100 percent Santa Monica school board chose not to remove deadly carcinogenic PCBs from Malibu schools until forced to by a federal court because it would be too expensive for Santa Monica. You chose not to close our schools the night of the Woolsey Fire as we requested, costing many their possessions, some, perhaps, their homes but thankfully none their lives, this time. And you continue to cut teachers, staff and programs which might have allowed Malibu schools to fight to retain students in this district-induced enrollment slide because we’re “too expensive.” Santa Monica has grievously harmed our public schools and continues to do so as it acts in the interests and at the direction of the 85 percent of district voters that live in Santa Monica.

Let’s talk bad faith. In 2016, six highly respected community members were appointed—three by you, three by us—to a committee. The MUNC it was called, and its job was to find an orderly financial transition to your and our independence. After 14-plus months, they unanimously agreed they’d reached the objectives you’d set, a smooth, positive financial transition to political independence. Your board voted, 6-1, to reject your own committee’s recommendations and, indeed, your own goals. Now you demand as the price of Malibu’s freedom that Malibu residents sign over billions of dollars of their property taxes to Santa Monica for 50 or more years. 

The saddest part for me is that you, Dr. Drati, are the superintendent of all the kids. You should not be spewing baseless insults and taking sides. It’s bad enough when the Santa Monica-elected school board violates its trust, but heartbreaking when you do it. Shame on you all.