Public School Activist Group Outlines Its Objectives
• Goal Is Unification of Malibu District Serving 90265 Area
BY LINDA BELL
Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, or AMPS, held a meeting last week at Malibu City Hall to discuss their future plans and goals.
The first issue on the agenda was the November 2012 election in which the three AMPS slate candidates—Karen Farrar, Seth Jacobson, and Craig Foster—lost bids for seats on the Santa Monica Malibu United School District Board.
According to Foster, who is AMPS president, the candidates did “‘pretty well’ when you consider that Santa Monica has 83 percent of the electorate.”
Foster said there has been ongoing discussion on how to alter the election process to give Malibu a better chance at the polls, but that process is set by the Santa Monica city charter.
The AMPS president added that changing the charter is “unlikely because the SMMUSD school board likes the way it is.”
Also discussed was Measure ES, the $385 million school bond that was on the November ballot. It passed with about 68 percent approval—with over 50 percent in Malibu. ES’s passage is beneficial locally as Malibu is slated to have input on how monies are spent.
Next on the agenda was fundraising, which is directly tied to the list of goals AMPS seeks to accomplish, Foster said.
Funding needs are predicated on the feasibility of AMPS driving force—the separation of Malibu public schools from the overall Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, the technical term for which is “unification.”
According to Foster, separation/unification requires nine criteria—”all of which we meet.” He indicated, “We are really now down to every group understanding why this is beneficial to them.”
The AMPS president said, “This is what we have to work out now, and what we will work out.”
Foster added, “There are other existential concerns. What does this mean for us? For the city of Malibu? For the city of Santa Monica? For the teachers’ union? For the classified staff?”
Foster emphasized that the first step in unification is political. All stakeholders either need to be neutral or in agreement, he explained. Once that happens, Foster said the decision goes to Los Angeles County Office of Education, which looks at the petition and says whether it has met the nine criteria.
“However, whatever they say, you can go on to the next step, which is the State Board of Education. If the state approves the separation, the decision goes to the electorate,” continued Foster. It is not yet established who gets to vote in this election, but the expectation is that “everyone [in the current district] would vote.” The whole unification/separation process could take two years, he said.
“AMPS was created for more than separation,” Foster emphasized. The effort that got underway about two years ago has a broader mission that he summed up as, “More quality for Malibu kids.”
Foster said “If separation doesn’t happen, we still want to make the district better.”