County regulators are recommending a proposal to split the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District into the next phase of analysis after a preliminary report found eight out of nine conditions for splitting were not met.
According to the staff, many of the unmet conditions were due to poor or missing data and further investigation is needed to make final decisions.
The Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization heard the first arguments about the split earlier this year, and a committee staff report released last week said the proposal failed to meet eight of nine standards in its current form.
Minimum requirements for enrollment
A new district should have at least 1,501 students, and the report cites a shrinking population as the main reason Malibu fails to meet the rule. However, the report says more studies may be needed to assess the impact of temporary population loss due to forest fires and the impact of distance learning on school enrollment.
“With strong evidence that fewer than 1,501 students are currently enrolled in schools in the Malibu area, staff currently find that condition is not essentially met,” the report said.
Districts should be organized on the basis of an “essential community identity,” and regulators said that while Malibu is a city in its own right, its educational history has always been tied to Santa Monica, making it impossible to justify a new district on identity grounds.
“Proposals for the formation of uniform school districts are requests for changes to the permanent boundaries. They should only be conducted on the basis of evidence of a compelling reason for such changes related to pedagogical issues and taking into account the mandatory nine review conditions. In this case, no compelling reason has been presented that cannot be mitigated by the current Santa Monica-Malibu USD collaborative practices, ”the report said. “The implication that this proposal should only be approved because the City of Malibu wants it, because they feel more like part of their city than their school district, should not be altered by such a serious process with such grave consequences as the formation of a new one become USD and stand out against a current high performing USD, especially given the potential fiscal implications. It is therefore recommended that the district committee consider this condition to be essentially not met at the moment. “
Fair division of property
The proposal must result in a fair division of property and facilities for the two newly divided counties, and officials said there are too few details to meet those criteria at this point. Regulators cited an independent report that concluded that the two sides would not agree on a division and that an arbitrator or arbitration tribunal would be required to determine a fair division.
Educating students in an integrated environment and not promoting racial or ethnic discrimination or segregation The committee said that regardless of the enrollment numbers, it was clear that a Malibu district would be much whiter than a Santa Monica district and that the district would be split up would likely violate the requirement.
“Evidence is that given the ethnic / racial shift in the student population, creating a Malibu USD may have a discriminatory impact on students. Therefore, it is recommended that the district committee consider this condition to be essentially unfulfilled at this time, ”the report said.
Cost to the state
The division of the district should not lead to a situation that requires additional state funding for either party. In this case, the analysis asks whether both districts would remain “basic aid”, ie they obtain their funding from local taxes and not from government sources.
The reason why this condition was not met at this point in time was cited by the regulatory authorities as the previous uncertainty about the conditions of a financial split.
“Without a further negotiated solution, it is not clear whether the two resulting districts could maintain basic aid status or whether a resulting Santa Monica USD would require additional assistance from the state. Therefore, it is recommended that the district committee consider this condition to be essentially unfulfilled at this time, ”the report said.
Continuous quality of training
The terms of the condition require that the proposed reorganization continue to promote solid educational performance and not materially disrupt educational programs in the districts affected by the proposed reorganization.
According to the report, there was insufficient data to say the proposal met the condition.
“At this point in time, it cannot be determined whether the creation of a Malibu USD would adversely affect the ability of the resulting Santa Monica USD to promote solid education (in terms of its ability to fund ongoing programs and educational offerings). As long as it is not clear how this reorganization is to be structured in terms of taxation, the effects on the educational programs are not known, ”it said. “It is therefore recommended to the district committee that this condition is currently essentially not met.”
Insignificant costs for school facilities
Facility costs cover the infrastructure, such as buildings and equipment, required to run a district. The report again points to poor data on future enrollments to determine if the offer can meet these criteria.
“Given further uncertainty about what a Malibu USD would need, how many students it is likely to have, and what the cost of training would be for the facilities it would like to acquire from the Santa Monica-Malibu USD, there is no way to know, whether this reorganization would indicate additional costs for the school facilities. In addition, at this point there is no way to know if the resulting Santa Monica USD would have school facilities costs due to loss of enrollment or other tax losses, ”it said.
The proposal is not designed to add value to the property
While a proposal to create a new district can add property value, property value may not be the primary motivating factor. Regulators said that since Malibu already has higher real estate values than Santa Monica, it qualifies.
“It is reasonable to assume that most Malibu residents already have higher property values than most Santa Monica residents, but there is no evidence that a significant increase in property values is the main driver behind the proposal. It is therefore tentatively recommended that the district committee consider this condition to be essentially met at this point in time. “
Still solid housekeeping
According to the report, the district committee should consider the financial performance of the affected districts and revenue gains and / or losses that may result from the proposed reorganization. This information is used to assess the impact of the proposal on the viability of the reorganized districts to conduct educational programs and to assess any negative impact on the financial management or status of the reorganized district or districts.
“It is tentatively concluded that this reorganization would have a negative impact on the financial management or status of the resulting Santa Monica USD if approved. It is therefore recommended that the district committee consider this condition to be essentially not met at the moment. “
Even if the staff concludes that the proposal does not meet eight of the nine criteria, the report still recommends moving the proposal to the next phase of analysis, as many of the failed criteria require additional information and study to reach a final decision . The report also notes that analyzing the staff is not the final decision.
“The district committee can determine that all, a majority, or some of the conditions are met and still vote to reject the proposal. Likewise, the district committee may determine that none, just a few, or some of the conditions are met, but still have authority to approve the proposal. The authority of the district committee lies in its assessment of what is best for this particular situation and proposal, both for each condition and as a whole, and in its overall assessment that the Nine Conditions are substantially met. “
The staff said that a negotiated solution is still the preferred solution.
“It is clear that the district committee will need additional information in order to complete a full analysis of this proposal to form a Malibu USD if it approves the inclusion of this proposal in the regular review process. It is also clear that although the city of Malibu and the Santa Monica-Malibu USD have encountered roadblocks many times, they still have the opportunity to negotiate and come to the district committee with a common solution, ”it said Report. “A negotiated solution that takes into account the needs and concerns of both parties remains the best recommendation.”