Residents Urged to Participate in School District Separation Meeting

0
383
A Samohi student speaks against Malibu's petition for an independent school district in a video published on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District YouTube channel days before the Sept. 18 LACOE hearing.

Malibu city leaders and community organizers are urging residents to attend and speak at the upcoming LA County Office of Education (LACOE) hearing on Malibu’s petition for an independent school district, set to take place virtually via Zoom on Saturday, Sept. 18, at 9 a.m.

Two weeks before the meeting, new analysis from LA County painted a tough picture for independence advocates, many of whom have been fighting for a Malibu school district for well over a decade.

A county analysis of tax revenue said giving Malibu an independent school district would “have a substantial negative effect on the fiscal health of the remaining Santa Monica USD.”

That was not a surprise, as the working theory in Malibu has been that Malibu taxpayers would have to send millions of dollars to Santa Monica over at least 10 years.

The county’s new financial analysis, released late Friday, Sept. 3, did not make recommendations on how to solve the financial issues. Santa Monica has asked for a 50-year deal that Malibu officials warn could transfer $4 billion in property tax revenue from Malibu to Santa Monica over those five decades.

The financial report said allowing Malibu independence “would result in significant revenue loss for the remaining district both in terms of one-time losses from the division of assets as well ongoing losses in per-ADA funding.”

It also said the impact on Santa Monica would be “disproportionate given the number of students that would remain within the district as compared to the number of students that would become part of the proposed Malibu USD.”

“The funding disparities between the two districts would be stark, and the losses that would be experienced by the remaining Santa Monica USD would undoubtedly affect the educational programs currently being offered to students within the current Santa Monica-Malibu USD,” the report concluded.

The analysis does not offer any financial formula to make Santa Monica whole, apparently leaving that up to the LACOE subcommittee at its Sept. 18 meeting.

Malibu school advocates were not giving up the fight. Malibu resident Wade Major, who has spoken in favor of separation in the past, shared his written comments to LACOE with The Malibu Times in advance of Saturday’s meeting. They included rebuttals of three of the county’s “Nine Conditions” for independence: too-small enrollment, lack of a distinct community and potential for “ethnic discrimination or segregation.”

Major argued the school population has shrunk due to the Woolsey Fire, COVID-19, mismanagement by the district and normal population fluctuation.

He defended Malibu’s argument that there is a “substantial community identity” in Malibu that is not shared with Santa Monica, writing that “Malibu is a unique and special place, and anyone who has bothered to spend any amount of time here would know that,” and adding, “It remains the only non-contiguous district in the state, an awkward amalgamation of a small rural community and a distant, disconnected larger urban community 10 times its size and sixteen times its density.”

He also rebutted the third point—concern over an integrated environment and promoting “racial or ethnic discrimination.”

“… Respective student bodies in Malibu and Santa Monica have existed as separate, distinct and discreet bodies for nearly 30 years,” Major wrote. “Since the establishment of Malibu High School in 1992, Malibu students have followed their K-12 pathway exclusively in Malibu, and Santa Monica students have followed their K-12 pathway exclusively in Santa Monica. The racial, cultural and ethnic makeup of each community’s schools will be precisely the same after unification as it is now. Nothing will change apart from district administration and the aggregated statistics on district makeup.”

The county’s financial analysis came on the heels of Malibu parents’ furor over an SMMUSD video aimed at ginning up opposition to the divorce.

Malibu officials said they would file a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission over the video, which they claimed violates state laws against using tax money to influence elections.

The U.S. and state constitutions also prohibit using tax money to influence elections, calling that a violation of First Amendment prohibitions against compelled speech.

The video cost taxpayers $8,370, KBUU News reported.

On Tuesday, Sept. 14, the SMMUSD uploaded two more pro-separation videos on its YouTube channel, these ones featuring Samohi students urging parents to speak against Malibu independence on Saturday.

For more information and to see how to attend, visit malibucity.org/musd