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A boundary map shows schools in Malibu and Santa Monica.
Scott Steepleton, Editor
4:57 pm PDT April 12, 2021

With days to go before the Los Angeles County Office of Education committee that oversees school district reorganization takes up formation of a Malibu Unified School District, residents still have the opportunity to make their voices heard on the matter.

The 11-member Committee on School District Organization meets at 9 a.m. April 17 via Zoom. The passcode is 547531.

To submit comments about the move before the meeting, use this form.

At 6 p.m. April 14, the city will hold a “community awareness night” on an independent Malibu school district via Zoom. The meeting ID is 841 0936 1674.

The city of Malibu has presented a last and best offer to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, which the district board rejected 6-1, with the lone no vote being Malibu’s only voice on the board, Craig Foster.

A question on homeowners’ minds might be, How would a district serving Malibu alone affect property taxes?

"Creating an independent Malibu Unified School District, separate from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, would not result in any new taxes or changes in tax rates for Malibu residents,” according to a statement from the city on Monday.

“Residents will continue to pay property taxes based on the assessed valuation of their own property.”

Since it’s unlikely that the majority of the SMMUSD board would vote for reorganization, backers will have to gather signatures of at least 25 percent of registered voters residing within the transfer area.

Once signed petitions are returned to the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools and then verified via the Los Angeles County Registrar, the proposal is presented to the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization.

In pre-COVID days, the committee, within 60 days of receiving the proposal, held at least one public hearing in each affected school district.

From there, county staff prepares a feasibility study and formulates plans and recommendations on the reorganization proposal based on the state Education Code. This is due within 120 days of the first public hearing.

The committee's recommendation for or against the proposal is forwarded to the State Board of Education. If the proposal is approved by the county committee, it may also recommend the area in which to hold an election on the reorganization.

The state board holds a public hearing and makes a final decision, although there is no timeline for this to happen.

If approved, the state selects the election area and orders the county superintendent to call an election. If voters say yes to the proposal, the Board of Supervisors orders changes in school districts. To become effective the following July, this must be completed prior to the end of the calendar year.

If the state board says no, the proposal dies.

Karen Farrer, the City Council member spearheading the reorganization effort says reorganization opponents “are trying to change the narrative to vilify Malibu as an elitist White enclave ready to abandon children of color and socio-economic disadvantage … The SM-MUSD administration has been feeding the community a steady diet of misinformation and faulty projections about school funding to fuel emotional push-back to our petition.”

Superintendent Ben Drati counters that Malibu “is trying to impose its own financial plan that would leave Santa Monica students in a worse financial and programmatic position than if Malibu schools and Santa Monica schools remained together in one district or even if separate districts were created under the district’s proposed financial plan.”

Members of the county committee are elected by Los Angeles County school and community college district board members, and identified by the supervisorial district they live in. Two members are elected from each supervisorial district, and one member is elected at-large.

The members from the 3rd District are CPA Barry Snell, Santa Monica City College board member and former SMMUSD board member, and AJ Willmer, a self-employed information systems consultant from Beverly Hills who has served on the school organization committee since 1999 and has chaired it twice.