For the past few months, a movement to create a separate school district for the City of Malibu has been gaining momentum.
A group called the Malibu Unified School Team (MUST) has been collecting signatures to petition the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) to study the feasibility and advisability of creating a separate school district for Malibu. Laura Rosenthal (not to be confused with Mirror editor Laurie Rosenthal), one of the chief petitioners, told the Mirror that 25 percent of the registered voters in Malibu (about 2,800 voters) are required to sign the petition to trigger the LACOE study. So far, about 1,000 signatures have been gathered.
Rosenthal also mentioned that there were about 500-600 signatures collected in 2004, and that those signatures can be used for the current petition. The movement began again recently because Malibu parents were upset about the way funds from the BB bond measure for the School District’s 20-year Facilities Master Plan were being allocated. Many in Malibu felt their schools weren’t receiving their fair share. In 2004, some local parents were upset about the creation of a District equity fund which required that a certain percent of funds raised by individual school site PTA’s be placed in a pot for district-wide use.
Rosenthal also mentioned that another reason for Malibu’s desire to have a separate district is that now residents “don’t have a whole lot of control over our destiny” with just one School Board member from Malibu. The same is true, says Rosenthal, when Malibu voters go to the polls on district-wide issues, such as the parcel tax, because they have a lot less voters than the City of Santa Monica. She is “hoping for support from the Santa Monica community because it will be good for both cities…to concentrate on their own specific issues.”
LACOE’s Assistant Director of Business Advisory Services, Daniel Villanueva, explained to the Mirror that if the required numbers of signatures are obtained, the County will first have to validate the signatures. They will then do a feasibility study, which will include a financial analysis, and they will hold public hearings on the issue as well. LACOE’s last step will be to make a recommendation to the California Department of Education.
The California Department of Education will go through a similar process. However, their process will also include a California Environmental Quality Analysis (CEQA). If the state approves the creation of the District, the matter will then be placed before the voters in an area determined by the state.
Tim Walker, Deputy Superintendent for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, said that it is the “desire of the District to stay unified because we are stronger when unified.”