school separation update - MALIBU’S PETITION TO CREATE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT MOVES FORWARD IN THE COUNTY PROCESS (SEPTEMBER 20, 2021)
On Saturday, September 18, the City of Malibu moved yet another step closer in its bid to separate its public schools from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SM-MUSD).
“I want to thank all the Malibu parents, students and community members that participated in the County hearing, shared their experiences with SM-MUSD and voiced their support for school district separation, and I want to convey our appreciation to the County Committee for its attention to this critical community issue. We are all very pleased with their decision to move the City’s petition forward,” said Mayor Paul Grisanti.
On Saturday, September 18, the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s County Committee on School District Organization (County Committee) held a preliminary hearing on the City’s petition to separate from SM-MUSD and form an independent Malibu Unified School District (MUSD). The preliminary hearing began on April 18, 2021, when hundreds of Malibu residents, students and parents logged on to share their views with the County Committee. As in April, Malibu community members voiced their support of an independent MUSD. Even the presenters from the SM-MUSD agreed that separation should be achieved under financial terms that are fair and equitable for both jurisdictions.
After hearing presentations from the City and SM-MUSD and public testimony, the County Committee voted 8 to 2 to move the City’s petition forward into the regular petition process. This will allow the City to demonstrate that its petition will substantially meet all nine of the criteria for school district organization established by the California Department of Education.
The County Committee vote was the next step in a decades-long community-led effort to separate from SM-MUSD and follows almost five years of efforts to negotiate with the District on the financial terms of separation. In September 2015, at the urging of Malibu residents, the City Council adopted a resolution to authorize the submittal of a petition to the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools. Shortly after in 2016, the City Council and the SM-MUSD School Board formed the Malibu Unification Negotiations Committee (MUNC) to resolve the financial concerns surrounding school separation. The MUNC met regularly for over a year and developed recommendations for separation which were ultimately rejected by the School Board. In November 2017, the City Council made a motion to submit the petition and request that the preliminary public hearing be postponed as requested by the School Board.
In March 2018, SM-MUSD School Board approved a framework for Malibu unification. In April 2018, the City Council accepted the District’s framework in principal and directed the City’s Ad Hoc Committee on School District Separation to negotiate with SM-MUSD representatives. In August 2018, the District made its one and only offer to the City. During the negotiations, the City’s four different counter-proposals went unanswered by the District. Eventually, the City accepted the District’s August 2018 offer with a few minor concessions, and the District still refused to settle. In October 2020, after recognizing that the District was negotiating in bad faith, the City Council requested that the County Committee move forward with the City’s preliminary petition.
With the vote of the County Committee, the City’s petition will now enter the County Committee’s regular petition process with prescribed timelines and evaluation criteria. In accordance with this established process, the County Committee will hold a public meeting or public meetings within 60 days, followed by a public hearing to the review the feasibility report and vote on the City’s petition.
During this time, the City will gather information from SM-MUSD and work with County Committee staff to develop the feasibility report and demonstrate once and for all that the City’s proposal sufficiently addresses all nine of the State’s criteria.
In the meantime, the City continues to urge SM-MUSD to return to the negotiation table and agree to binding arbitration as the County Committee’s consultant School Services of California recommends. “While the City remains open to negotiations, the District’s failure to honor any of its promises at the bargaining table leads the City to believe that third-party, binding negotiations are necessary,” said Deputy City Attorney Christine Wood. The District has formally rejected the City’s offer to binding arbitration, most recently on September 9, 2021.
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