Majority of Malibu Parents Poised to Challenge SMMUSD Pooling of Funds
• Some Major Donors Threatening to Withhold Contributions
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Malibu parents are rallying to oppose implementation of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District's controversial fundraising equity plan.
Webster Elementary School parent Craig Foster spoke to an audience of 40 concerned parents at Point Dume on Monday, previewing a presentation that he plans to present to the board of education in Santa Monica on Thursday.
"I want to get some facts out here," Foster said. "This is a set of facts, not a narrative, a whole bunch of facts discovered in the process of looking at this. You're going to see numbers the board hasn't seen, because I am, I think, the only one to run the numbers."
The most significant fact for most in attendance at the meeting is that, according to Foster, "This plan is just a transfer of funds between Malibu to Santa Monica, literally a transfer of funds. Every single school in Malibu loses money, every school in Santa Monica gains money."
According to Foster, all three Malibu elementary schools will lose staff, and between 37 and 83 percent of current programs. Every Santa Monica school gains up to 456 percent of current funding.
"The key thing is the Education Foundation will be the only fundraising entity to raise funds for the district to pay for personnel and professional development," Foster said.
"[Elementary school] aides are typically paid for with PTA dollars: gardening angels, a second PE coach...every school spends differently. More than half of the money spent cannot be spent by us at our schools. That's the poison in our pill."
"Even if we can swallow and get past this I don't know how you fix this in post production….at best, Malibu schools will receive a pro rata share."
Foster warned that the situation "could get worse in postproduction."
"All this talk about money, money, money and there is no plan," Foster said. "We're going to take this money and move it and figure out what to do later. There isn't a bad plan, there isn't any plan."
Foster criticized the prevailing view that it is too late to prevent the changes from passing.
"There's a meme going around that this is a done deal. I find it deeply offensive that this proposal just brought to the board is a done deal," he said.
He also had harsh words for the board of education. "Six get to vote, one recuses himself because he lives with the head of the Education Foundation."
"Consistently, they don't honor the fact that our town is different from them. They think we're like them and it annoys them when we are not."
Foster, who sits on the district Financial Oversight Committee, also blasted the claim that Malibu residents refuse to participate in district affairs.
"You hear 'well, you guys never sign up for anything,' he said. "It's unbelievably painful. You go down, there's one or two of you in this big room, they vote on the thing the way they want to. There's really very little point. You are a minority who is ignored and you have to drive 20 miles each way to do it.
"We all want the same thing, we all want to help all the kids across the district," Foster said. "This is not an us versus them thing, this is an intelligence thing. Every single school in Santa Monica is below parity, every single school in Malibu is above parity. Where does this leave us?"
Foster indicated that the district will require Malibu schools to put in four times as much money to "get same level of funding back."
Foster stated that all of the Malibu elementary schools lost on average 39 children this year to private schools, an attrition rate of 20 percent. "We are on the cusp, losing just six percent of our families to private school could cost Malibu 50 percent of its funding." Foster said. "My big concern is that its going to spiral."
"All of our students used to be funneled through Santa Monica High School," one Point Dume parent commented. "Now we don't participate with them at all, but the organization is the same."
Foster had several alternate suggestions, including enforcing the equity fund requirements and closing loopholes. "Lots of people evade and they made lots of exceptions. Seems to me no issue to collecting 15 percent for the equity fund.
"What are the alternatives? It's not this plan or nothing. give everyone time to work out a better plan. I am quite certain we could make a better plan. They could have more money to spend by not sending money to us," Foster said. "Or we could have sister schools. Its obvious Santa Monica and Malibu are two different communities that face different challenges in their schools.
The full burden of the superintendent's proposal falls exclusively on Malibu."
The audience expressed anger and concern over the district proposal. Many called for a sperate Malibu school district.
"The Education Foundation is brain dead," one speaker said.
"It is economically viable to have a district this size," another speaker said. "I think the only way to have a dialogue with the board is that this is a viable option. They are too naive to realize that if they lose Malibu they loose funding.
"We tried to play nice with the charter, a Point Dume parent said, referring to the failed attempt to convert the school to a charter. "It didn't work. this is war."
"Democracy is two hyenas and an antelope voting on what to eat for dinner," another speaker contributed. "And Malibu isn't one of the hyenas."
Foster has set up a blog at malibuschools.wordpress.com. Up to date information on the opposition effort will be posted there, including a petition protesting the proposed change. The issue is scheduled for a board of education vote on Nov. 29, in Santa Monica.