Students ask council members to have a heart

You couldn’t get a seat in the Hughes auditorium Monday, as parents, teachers and children presented their case for increased school funding to the City Council. Many people had placards saying “Save our Schools.”

Even the well-publicized Malibu Bay Company development agreement (see separate story) risked being overshadowed when children showered councilmembers with valentines shortly before the presentation by councilmembers Tom Hasse and Joan House.

The children handed out valentines after 12 speakers urged the council to bail out local schools from the worst financial crisis in decades.

The council was asked to commit to giving the Santa Monica-Malibu School District $150,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1. If the city doesn’t come up with the money, Malibu schools risk losing $400,000-$700,000 in operating funds if the Santa Monica City Council decides it wants to earmark its contribution only for the Santa Monica schools.

“For the past 10 years, the city of Santa Monica has given $2 million to $2.5 million to the School District’s general operating fund,” said Webster PTA president Deirdre Roney, speaking on behalf of principals, site governance chairs and PTA presidents of Malibu. “This year they are thinking of giving about $6.5 million to be used by all Santa Monica and Malibu students. The city of Santa Monica knows Malibu is younger, poorer, has more disasters and less of a business tax base. That is why they are only looking to us for $150,000 emergency grant.” Roney said the organizations she represents want to meet with the council and candidates and would mobilize parent voters.

The council was also asked to partner with the district to study problems from a long-range perspective.

“The process of education funding in California is a recipe for disaster,” said Jeff Jennings, chair of the Malibu High School Governance Council. “It is up to the cities to get the job done.”

There were also hints of election year leverage and school district financial mismanagement.

“Local schools are well-run but the district is not,” said Judy Pace, who suggested the city put some strings on its grant.

If funding is approved at the next council meeting, Feb. 28,, it was suggested that perhaps the city’s increased demand for park and recreation facilities might be alleviated through getting district facilities as a means for bailing out the district.

“Since the district doesn’t care how it gets its money, the city might look into the possibility of taking over the Equestrian Center,” said Councilman Tom Hasse, who along with Councilman Harry Barovsky had been on a council committee looking for park space. At its Feb. 28 meeting, the council will also set up a public hearing timetable on the Bay Co. agreement.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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