SMMUSD’s Excellent Public Schools in the New Year


The Santa Monica Malibu Council of PTAs held its annual Holiday Breakfast at Duke’s restaurant in Malibu Dec. 9. The tone was one of congratulations for difficult jobs well done in challenging times, coupled with celebrations of remarkable work being done by and for the students in SMMUSD.

Just two days later, the Santa Monica Malibu Board of Education was presented with a staggering list of emergency budget cuts to consider, each of which would cause pain for our families, diminish the educational experience for our students and make teachers’ jobs more difficult. Collectively, these cuts, which include staggering layoffs of as many as 114 teachers and staff, could dismantle the excellent public schools we rely on here in Santa Monica and Malibu.

Education funding cuts caused by California’s devastating budget crises haven’t made as much noise here in Santa Monica and Malibu as they have in neighboring communities, many of which have already dismantled public education in their K-12 schools. Of course, the most fundamental reason that our schools have not been hit quite as hard as neighboring districts is the sizeable local financial support that our communities make. Local parcel taxes, direct contributions from our cities, and individual contributions provide nearly a quarter of SMMUSD’s income.

When Sacramento pulled the rug out from under K-12 education funding, SMMUSD had sizeable reserves, which have tided us over the worst of the cuts last year. However, because of the magnitude of cuts coming from Sacramento, SMMUSD reserves are coming to an end. Last month’s State of Our Schools events provided the communities of Santa Monica and Malibu the first glimpse of the size of the problem facing our schools in the upcoming school year.

Superintendent Tim Cuneo told the education community to get ready to roll up their sleeves and get ready for a lot of hard work ahead. It will require everyone working together in 2010, he said, to help preserve and protect the excellence of Santa Monica and Malibu schools-to help maintain opportunities for all students-and to get to the holiday season this time next year, with our schools still intact.

Rebecca Soladay Kennerly

Chair, Community for Excellent Public Schools