Education activists from the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu gathered at Shutters on the Beach to celebrate the passage of Measure R, which renewed the local parcel tax funding currently in place for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD).
Approval of Measure R was supported by 25,494 (72.7 percent) of the voters from the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu. Rebecca Kennerly, President of the Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTAs, told the crowd, “There is nothing like a school funding measure, nothing like the prospect of losing critically needed school funding to galvanize and unify our extraordinary community.” She also noted that the PTA’s support for the measure was based on the need for “stable, predictable funding for education and that is something we couldn’t rely on from the State of California.”
School Board President Oscar de la Torre also referred to the issues with state funding for the District at the March 3 celebration by stressing, “We have a hard time ahead of us with the state budget…so this unity and solidarity we see in this room must continue. It takes a community to build strong public schools.”
The approved parcel tax will not exceed $346 per parcel, and will be adjusted annually for inflation in accordance with the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for All Urban Consumers (Los Angels-Riverside-Orange area). A Senior Exemption is available to those 65 years or older who own and occupy a parcel as a principal residence and apply for the exemption. Measure R also includes provisions for annual audits and an Independent Citizens Oversight Committee to help ensure that the funds are properly spent.
Current $10.4 million parcel tax funding helps retain excellent teachers, supports reading and literacy instruction, protects smaller class sizes for grades K-3, continues programs to improve student math skills, supports elementary libraries, physical education, and music, helps lower counselor and nursing ratios, and supports better technology in the District.
Kennerly emphasized the need for support of the School District by noting that a RAND study by Dr. Steven Carroll found that “excellent public schools impact not only individual students and families, not only the greater society in the form of improved economic contributions, but most importantly great public schools contribute to local communities by increasing housing values, lowering crime rates, increasing tax revenues, and greatly adding to civic participation.” His study showed that “just a one percent increase in the average District reading or math scores translates into a .5 to one percent increase in property values.”
SMMUSD students score 20 to 30 points higher on achievement tests than the state average in reading and math.