Proposed Malibu Unified School District

Latest STATUS Update

COUNTY COMMITTEE CONTINUES Preliminary Hearing on MALIBU'S Preliminary PETITION UNTIL September 18, 2021

The City has moved one step closer in its bid to separate its public schools from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SM-MUSD). The City made its case in front of the County Committee on School District Organization (County Committee) at a virtual preliminary hearing on Saturday, April 17. (View video of the meeting). Hundreds of Malibu residents, educators, students, and parents shared their views with the Committee in support of an independent Malibu Unified School District (MUSD). 

This remains a contentious issue, and the City has been working hard to dispel misinformation about the true impacts of separating from SM-MUSD. On April 17, the County Committee heard several hours of testimony from both the City and School District, and ultimately decided to continue the hearing to early June. At the June 2 Regular County Committee Meeting, the Committee voted to continue to the public hearing on Saturday, September 18, 2021.  

In the meantime, the City team will continue to communicate to residents of both Malibu and Santa Monica. SM-MUSD agrees that the two communities need separate school districts; the only question is how to separate in a way that is fair and equitable for both jurisdictions and will not harm any students in the process.

City's Preliminary Petition to form an independent Malibu unified school district SUBMITTED to LACOE

View the City's preliminary petition for unification of a new Malibu Unified School District submitted to the LACOE Committee on School District Organization.

Community Participation 

Community members wishing to show their support for this effort to give Malibu residents local control over local public schools can get involved in the following ways:


The separation process is complex. This page offers accurate facts and straight answers.

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The City is collecting testimonials about personal experiences with Santa Monica-Malibu public schools. Submit your testimonial and endorse the City's application to form an independent MUSD.

RECENT negotiation efforts

On March 2, 2021, the City of Malibu made what it considered a generous "last best" financial offer in renewed negotiations with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SM-MUSD). The proposal ensures that the Santa Monica schools will have at least the same per-pupil funding for the coming decade. The City proposed a tax-sharing agreement that transfers property tax revenue from Malibu to Santa Monica for up to 10 years in the event SM-MUSD’s per-pupil funding dips below its current level. In addition, the proposal also identifies the approximately $50 million in Other Local Funding (grants, sales taxes, rental income, redevelopment funds, and parent/business donations, etc.) that SM-MUSD receives each year beyond state education funding and property tax sources which Santa Monica will be able to retain in separation.

On April 8, 2021, SM-MUSD School Board voted 6-1 in closed session to reject the City's offer. The following day on April 9, 2021, the SM-MUSD provided its response to the City's March 12 offer, its analysis on the SM-MUSD territory transfer and the SM-MUSD Superintendent provided this message.

On April 13, 2021 the City’s Ad Hoc Committee on School Separation directed the City Attorney to respond to the SM-MUSD with a reasonable settlement offer, and on April 14, the City Council ratified that settlement offer. Since the financial terms of separation appear to be the only issue remaining and the City understands that the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) and their consultant, School Services of California, are well-suited to determine fair and equitable financial terms for separation, the City proposed that LACOE and School Services of California develop the financial terms of separation. The City urged SM-MUSD to agree to be bound to the financial terms to be developed by LACOE and School Services and to go on record that it supports Malibu’s petition to create an independent Malibu Unified School District. Here is the City’s counter proposal:

On April 16, the SM-MUSD voted 5-2 to reject the City of Malibu counter proposal on unification and would not agree to be bound by the LACOE County Committee's recommendations.  


Youth and children in Malibu and the surrounding unincorporated area have attended schools within the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SM-MUSD) since prior to the City's incorporation. Local school families and community groups have long expressed the desire to separate from SM-MUSD to form a separate Malibu Unified School District (MUSD). 

Among the reasons for separation expressed by Malibu families is the physical distance between Malibu and Santa Monica, the distinct character of these communities, inadequate representation of Malibu on the SM-MUSD Board of Education, and the need for local control over the education of Malibu's children. Since 2011, community groups have worked to advance Malibu's separation from SM-MUSD.

In response to community efforts to advance separation, the City Council adopted Resolution 15-60 authorizing the transmission of a petition for unification of the MUSD to the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools. 

On October 12, 2020, City Council received an update from the City Council's School District Separation Ad Hoc Committee on the status of the City's negotiations with SM-MUSD, and the City's consultant team gave a presentation analyzing the financial terms SM-MUSD had requested for separation and voted unanimously to reinstate the City's petition for unification of an independent MUSD to the LACOE Committee of School District Organization.

A brief history of these efforts is provided below:

2011 to 2015 - Advocates for malibu public schools (AMPS)

In 2011, Malibu families formed the Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) devoted to the mission of creating an independent Malibu Unified School District dedicated to excellence in education for the Malibu community. AMPS commissioned studies to examine the feasibility of school district reorganization and collected thousands of signatures in support of separation.

2015 to 2017 - Malibu unification negotiations committee

In 2015, the Malibu Unification Negotiations Committee (MUNC) was formed with three members appointed to represent the interests of the Malibu school community and three members appointed to represent the interests of the Santa Monica school community. MUNC met for two years to develop financial terms for the separation of SM-MUSD and the formation of two distinct districts. MUNC's recommendations were presented to the City Council and SM-MUSD Board. 

2018 to 2020 - Negotiation Committee

In September 2017, the Malibu City Council formed the School District Separation Ad Hoc Committee. In April 2018, Council asked the Los Angeles County Committee on School Separation to accept and temporarily suspend the City's petition pending negotiations with SM-MUSD regarding separation. Council directed the City Manager and City Attorney to pursue negotiations with SM-MUSD representatives to reach a mutual separation agreement and financial plan for both proposed districts under the guidance of the City Council's School District Separation Ad Hoc Committee. 

On October 12, 2020, the Ad Hoc Committee members reported that the negotiations had stalled and, in response, the Council voted unanimously to reinstate the City's petition for unification with the LACOE Committee on School District Organization.

Actions & Milestones

  1. 2018-2020 Negotiations
  2. 2015-2017 MUNC
  3. 2011-2015 AMPS
  1. Directed staff to send a letter to LACOE requesting formal acceptance of the City’s petition for the unification of a MUSD and, once accepted, temporarily suspend further actions pending the outcome of negotiation efforts with SM-MUSD; 
  2. Designated the City Manager and City Attorney to pursue negotiations with SM-MUSD under the guidance of the School District Separation Ad Hoc Committee; and 
  3. Accepted, in principle, the framework for school district separation recommended by the SM-MUSD Board of Education at its March 20, 2018 meeting
  • 5/26/2019 - City Council adopted its Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Work Plan establishing school district separation as the City’s third priority after public safety and Woolsey Fire rebuilds
  • 9/23/2019 - City Council directed the School District Separation Ad Hoc Committee, City Manager, and City Attorney to:
  1. Develop a plan to pursue SM-MUSD separation with LACOE
  2. Consider any other options to facilitate separation; and 
  3. Continue considering negotiations with SM-MUSD



The following are commonly used acronyms in discussion of school district separation and formation of a new district:

  • AMPS - Advocates for Malibu Public Schools
  • LACOE - Los Angeles County Office of Education
  • MUNC - Malibu Unification Negotiations Committee
  • MUSD - proposed Malibu Unified School District
  • SM-MUSD - Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District
  • SMUSD - proposed Santa Monica Unified School District
  • SSC - School Services of California