Malibu City Council to Explore Leading Charge to Secede from SMMUSD
• Plans to Seek Consensus of All Stakeholders to Determine Feasibility of Going to County Panel
BY BILL KOENEKER
Should Malibu form its own school district? That is the topic on the Malibu City Council's agenda next week, when it is being asked to discuss whether to proceed with the process to pursue a petition with the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, aka the County Committee, for the purpose of forming a separate unified school district from territory currently within the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, according to city officials.
The council's school subcommittee, consisting of Mayor Laura Rosenthal and Councilmember Lou La Monte, has been researching the concept of Malibu forming its own school district.
Rosenthal and La Monte are seeking the support and consensus of the council to initiate a "formal, multi-entity process to pursue a unification petition."
The effort appears to be operating from a position that a separate district is wanted by the voters of the city and the unincorporated areas of Malibu that are part of the district, although this is not explicitly stated nor have there been any proposals to try to assess public opinion on the issue.
According to a staff report written by City Manager Jim Thorsen, the goal is to build a consensus within a joint petition group.
It would involve meetings with SMMUSD, the City of Santa Monica and the City of Malibu to work towards submitting a joint petition to the County Committee, according to Thorsen.
The joint petition would present an agreement in principle among the entities in regard to distribution of resources, taxes, facilities, joint use agreements and other relevant issues.
Malibu city officials are apparently taking their cue from public statements and previous private conversations with district officials that the school district might cooperate with Malibu creating its own school district.
Other interested parties need to be consulted, including the California Teachers Association, Service Employees International Union, Community for Excellent Public Schools and Parent Teacher Associations.
Once a valid petition is submitted, the County Committee will study the feasibility of the petition.
"A united front among all the entities will be a key factor in the success of this petition," wrote Thorsen in his staff report.
The County Committee consists of 11 members—two from each of the five county supervisory districts and one member serving at-large.
Members are elected annually by a voting representative of each of the 94 school and community college district governing boards in Los Angeles County. The term of office is four years. The committee meets one time per month.
Any proposal to reorganize a school district must be considered by the County Committee, requiring a public hearing, decision and recommendation, according to state law.
The County Committee has the option to vote to recommend that a proposal for unification be disapproved, "when the conditions are substantially met, if it determines a proposal will not be in the best overall interests of those affected, there is no compelling reason for a change, the proposal will not improve the effectiveness and/or the efficiency of the delivery of educational service to students or for any other reasons the County Committee deems relevant," according to its policy statement.
The County Committee may vote to recommend approval of a proposal for unification or formation, "if it determines it is not practical nor possible to apply the [state code] conditions literally and circumstances with respect to the proposal present an exceptional situation sufficient to justify approval of the proposal," according to its policy statement.
There are several conditions contained in the state education code that are required to be considered by the panel.
It is an actual yes or no checklist the committee follows indicating the condition "is substantially met."
1. The reorganized districts will be adequate in terms of number of pupils enrolled.
2. The districts are each organized on the basis of a substantial community identity.
3. The proposal will result in an equitable division of property and facilities of the original district or districts.
4. The reorganization of the district will preserve each district's ability to educate students in an integrated environment and will not promote racial or ethnic discrimination or segregation.
5. Any increase in costs to the state as a result of the proposed reorganization will be insignificant and otherwise incidental to the reorganization.
6. The proposed reorganization will continue to promote sound education management and will not significantly disrupt the educational program in the districts affected by the proposed reorganization.
7. Any increase in school facilities costs as a result of the proposed reorganization will be insignificant and otherwise incidental.
8. The proposed reorganization is primarily designed for purposes other than to significantly increase property values.
9. The proposed reorganization will continue to promote sound fiscal management and not cause a substantial negative effect on the fiscal status of the proposed district or any existing district affected by the proposed reorganization.