Youngsters come first

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    For four years, I served on a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board that oversees the grade-school childcare program at the district’s elementary schools, including Juan Cabrillo, where my children attend, at Zuma Beach. The Cabrillo program serves western Malibu children from 7 a.m. until school starts, and from kindergarten dismissal until 6 p.m. It operates 52 weeks a year. Working parents such as me and my wife rely desperately on this program.

    The level of City of Malibu support for this before and afterschool elementary school program has been zero. Meanwhile, the City of Santa Monica has committed millions over the years for afterschool programs in the district over those years. The City of Malibu’s Parks and Recreation Department does not offer afterschool programs that even approach what the district has taken on at Juan Cabrillo.

    Over the years, I sat in shame as committee members from Santa Monica politely and correctly pointed out that Malibu taxpayers were getting a free ride at the expense of the City of Santa Monica’s contributions to the entire afterschool program. Despite that, the district soldiered on and bore the burden. But now times have changed. It is time for the affluent community of Malibu to step up and begin to carry our share of the burden of providing safe afterschool programs for Malibu children. The Santa Monica free ride is unfair. The City of Malibu has created afterschool programs for 12-and-up kids by starting the Boys and Girls Club at Malibu High. This is admirable.

    But this program is only for junior high and up. Now this effort must be extended to the little ones, where the city is spending zero. Now, the district is finding it cannot afford its music programs. There are dozens-hundreds-of school funding categories, and there may be no direct correlation between the music and afterschool funding commitments. But the time has come for the Malibu City Council to step to the plate.

    This city faced dozens of natural disasters in its first decade. Funding for everything was always uncertain. But those crises are behind Malibu, and a significant cash reserve has prudently been established. Part of this money is earmarked for an eventual new City Hall, an important and worthy civic goal. The City Council’s restraint in spending is noted and appreciated. The reserve fund is needed and should be valued.

    The worst state funding crisis since the 1930s is just such an emergency. It’s time for the City of Malibu to act like a city. Our crises are behind us. Quality education, afterschool childcare and community values such as the arts are far more important than a new City Hall. Malibu must dig, and dig deeply, to make up for the state revenues that are being cut off from our school children.

    Residents of Santa Monica should be aware that people like me in Malibu face an uphill battle. There are a few people out here who want to erect tollgates on PCH and divorce ourselves from the reality of the outside world, like properly educating children. But we’re awake and we’re working on this.

    Hans Laetz