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County Officials Hear City, District Positions on Malibu Split

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By Jorge Casuso

April 19, 2021 -- In a highly anticipated, though predictable, showdown Saturday, County education officials heard conflicting views over Malibu's split from the District before preparing to cast an initial vote in June.

Members of the Los Angeles County Office of Education's (LACOE) Committee on School District Organization asked no questions after hearing from City of Malibu and School District officials and taking public comment from proponents of each side.

During the zoom meeting, Malibu officials argued that their City is not getting its tax money's worth and is being neglected by a distant, mismanaged bureaucracy.

Malibu Councilwoman Karen Farrer accused the District of creating an "us versus them attitude" that has left Malibu residents "on the outside looking in."

"There is no way to recover from this," Farrer said. "The education of our current and future students is at risk. At this point, separation is the only solution.”

Council member Bruce Silverstein agreed. "It’s time for a no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences,” he told the committee.

District officials countered that the separation would create a wealthy, predominantly White district in Malibu, while leaving Santa Monica with less funding to educate a large minority student population.

The District submitted letters of support from the NAACP, ACLU and other "equity groups," arguing that Malibu's split would "set a precedent for creating school districts where diversity would be non-existent," District officials said.

On Saturday, they contended that population projections indicate Malibu would not have enough students to sustain a stand-alone district.

They also noted that a new Malibu District would take one third of shared property taxes to educate about 12 percent of the current students.

“The students are not there anymore," said School Board President Jon Kean. "They're not coming back anytime soon."

The County meeting was held one day after the School Board rejected a last-minute offer from Malibu to have LACOE determine the financial terms for the city's split ("School Board Rejects Malibu's Last-Ditch Offer," April 16, 2021).

Both sides back the separation but remain deeply divided over the financial terms after Malibu officials walked away from negotiations last October.

After Saturday's meeting, District officials invited Malibu to return to the negotiating table.

“We would eagerly welcome them back for a conversation that is shorter on grievances and longer on facts and solutions,” Kean said in a statement Monday.

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