Proponents of a standalone Malibu school district believe they can still get approval for their proposal, though a recent report concludes that efforts to split SMMUSD fail eight out of nine conditions.
District regulators released a report last week stating that the current proposal only meets one requirement to avoid splitting for the sole purpose of increasing property values. For eight other criteria, the report found that Malibu’s proposal either did not meet the requirements or that more information was needed to determine whether they could meet the condition.
The process of dividing a district is confusingly referred to as a “union” proposal and plans are judged based on nine conditions. While the fulfillment of the requirements is not an automatic admission requirement, the assessment is part of the decision-making process.
Proposals must meet standards for enrollment, community identity, property allocation, racial justice, cost to the state, educational outcomes, infrastructure costs, property value, and ongoing fiscal health.
The report states that Malibu’s proposal does not meet enrollment, identity, racial and fiscal health requirements. It states that the proposal does not meet the other conditions, but states that these errors are due to a lack of information and additional study is needed to reach a final decision.
The City of Malibu is leading efforts to establish a new district, and their team said the recommendation encourages them to look further into its proposal.
“Malibu is a small community with its own identity and needs. We’re 20 miles from Santa Monica, and the two cities don’t even share a border, ”said Karen Farrer, councilor for Malibu. “For the past 30 years, students in Santa Monica and Malibu have attended schools in their own cities, and no students have to switch schools when we separate the districts. Our families have worked for decades to provide local control over our children’s education and to ensure that they have access to the same programs and resources here in Malibu as the Santa Monica district offers. The district agrees that we should part ways, and the only question is how can we do that fairly and without harming the students. Malibu’s proposal is fair, and staying in the district harms Malibu’s students. “
In a statement, the city said the terms of its recent offer to the district should address many of the tax issues raised in the report, and that it believes that with some additional study, the proposal could eventually meet eight of the nine conditions. The statement said Malibu does not meet the enrollment requirements of 1,501 students, but the number itself is actually not a problem.
“While enrollment is not an issue for the reorganization feasibility, it is a concern for the community,” the statement said. “It has to argue how an independent Malibu Unified School District could attract additional students and halt the decline in school enrollment by giving Malibu families local control over their children’s education and taking into account the specific needs and priorities of the community. Other factors such as the ongoing community rebuilding efforts through the Woolsey Fire and student voucher program could address this as well. “
Malibu officials said they are open to a negotiated solution under the right conditions.
“Yes, if the district would agree to binding arbitration by a neutral third party. The district rejected this proposal despite the fact that the district committee adviser supported third party arbitration. The city is suspicious of further non-binding negotiations because, in the opinion of the city, the district has negotiated in bad faith in recent years, ”the statement said.
The report will be discussed in detail at an upcoming hearing on September 18.