Letter: Money For Malibu School District

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In last week’s “From the Publisher: Our council, our friends,” there are two huge factual misunderstandings on the subject of an independent Malibu school district. 

First, Malibu’s independent district will have more money, not less. The funding formula for schools gives them the greater of their share of the existing local property taxes or the statewide, legally required minimum funding. Malibu’s “27 miles of scenic beauty” makes an independent Malibu school district’s share of property tax much higher than the funding floor, leading to a very large increase in school funding. And, yes, right now the city and residents of Santa Monica spend a net $2 million dollars on Malibu’s schools. When Santa Monica and Malibu begin operations as independent school districts, they will both have more money: Santa Monica gets its $2 million back and Malibu retains a greater share of its existing taxes and, even after giving Santa Monica its money back, still ends up with $2.6 million more than is currently spent on Malibu schools. 

This bears repeating: Malibu ends up $2.6 million better off and Santa Monica ends up $2 million better off, all without a penny of new taxes. This is now established fact. The feasibility study from education consultant WestEd and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s own analysis confirm this. 

Second, the City of Malibu has nothing to do with the public schools. The independent Malibu Unified School District would be a completely separate organization with its own funding and its own completely different and independently elected school board. Malibu’s school district would also be much larger than the City of Malibu, extending from Sunset Mesa to the county line, and also extending generally further north than the City. While it is certainly hoped and expected that the city and the school district will work cooperatively and continue their Shared Use Agreement, they have very different responsibilities, authority and governance. 

We’re sorry for your misunderstanding, but your editorial is dead wrong! Santa Monica and Malibu will be better off financially as independent districts and they will each have their own locally elected, independent school boards dedicated to making each district amazing. And we can’t wait! 

Craig Foster, President, Advocates for Malibu Public Schools