Malibu school district campaign begins

A consultant says Malibu has the revenue base to support a district without requiring extra state funding. Petitions to break from Santa Monica, which need thousands of Malibu voters’ signatures, have begun circulating.

By Susan Reines/Special to The Malibu Times

At its first public meeting Sunday, a group of parents working to create a Malibu Unified School District presented results of a study indicating that a Malibu district could be feasible. The grass-roots initiative to gain local control over Malibu schools by separating from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District inched forward as petitions were distributed and plans to meet with the superintendent and school board officials were announced.

Past discussions about forming a Malibu district have dead-ended for lack of financial feasibility, but the consultant who conducted the new feasibility study said Malibu now has the revenue base to support its own district.

Tom Griffin, redistricting consultant and former State Board of Education member, said Malibu meets all the state criteria for having its own district, including a requirement that the city be able to support a district without extra help from the state. Between local revenues and standard state funding, he said, “Malibu will have a very high-quality educational program.”

Tom Sorce, president of the Malibu Unified School Team (MUST), the group of parents that commissioned the study, said, “From a fear-based perspective, we’re not going to have enough money. I have a different outlook on that. We’re going to have an opportunity to create one of the best-funded school districts in the state.”

Advertisement

MUST formed in response to episodes in which many Malibu residents felt their voices were not being heard, such as last winter’s debate over Superintendent John Deasy’s policy to distribute a percentage of school gifts throughout the district.

Being a fraction of the size of Santa Monica, Malibu has had little power in the district. Santa Monica voters largely control the election of Board of Education members, and there was no Malibu representation in the superintendent’s office until former Malibu High Principal Mike Matthews was appointed to an assistant superintendent position in June.

With local control over Malibu’s schools, Sorce said, “We believe we can be more effective and more efficient, and certainly have better accountability.”

MUST Treasurer Mitch Clarfield said creating a Malibu district would cost roughly $75,000. The feasibility study cost $9,000, plus there would be more consulting fees of about $16,000, he said. Travel to Sacramento during the lengthy process would total approximately $10,000, and there could be about $20,000 in lobbying fees. Organizing and operating costs such as mailings would run about $15,000, and an estimated $5,000 in miscellaneous costs would bring the total to $75,000.

The first step toward forming the district would be gaining approval from either Malibu voters or the SMMUSD Board of Education.

Mike Jordan, the only Malibu member of the Board of Education, is not running for re-election in November. Education activist Kathy Wisnicki has entered the race as Malibu’s sole hope for representation on the board. Wisnicki said she has not yet formed an opinion on the idea of a Malibu district because she has not had a chance to analyze the data.

Sorce said MUST will meet with Deasy this week and with Board of Education members in coming weeks to rally support for the Malibu district. But the group is also beginning to collect the 3,000 to 4,000 signatures of Malibu voters that would bring the item to the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization even if the board voted against redistricting.

Once either the board or the voters approved the item and send it to the county, political clout could be the key to winning approval. Griffin said he has seen politically based decisions at the county level “too many times.” Even if the county voted against the district, though, Griffin said there would still be about a 50 percent chance the state would approve it.

MUST estimates that, if the process goes smoothly, the redistricting could pass through the local, county, and state levels and take effect in the 2007-08 school year.

If the redistricting were successful, Malibu would control all school sites within its city limits, which could include 42 undeveloped acres that the SMMUSD owns in Malibu. That land could potentially be used for a junior high, which would solve some of the crowding issues that are beginning to develop in Malibu’s schools.

13StarsManager
13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

Related Articles

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

Latest Articles

Advertisement

%d bloggers like this:
×