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School District Urges County Committee to Oppose Malibu Split

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By Jorge Casuso

September 13, 2021 -- School District officials last week mounted a campaign urging the County Committee on School District Organization to end the "protracted battle" over Malibu's split on Saturday.

In an email Friday to parents, staff and community members, Superintendent Ben Drati cited "an independent third-party analysis" that found Malibu's departure would have "dire consequences" for Santa Monica students.

The email asks recipients to join the District in its opposition to the Malibu City Council's petition by weighing in on the key decision Saturday in what has been a decade-long battle.

"I believe the County Committee should deny the Malibu City Council’s Petition rather than continue to spend needless time and energy establishing what is already clear," Drati wrote.

"The Malibu City Council cannot meet the criteria set forth in state law for unification unless and until there is a fair and equitable financial plan in place."

Drati reiterated the District's longstanding contention that the proposed split would result in a “catastrophic 21.52 percent revenue drop” for a newly created Santa Monica District.

It also would leave "an immediate funding gap of $33,759 per student in Malibu compared with $9,964 per student in Santa Monica."

Drati noted that the report from the Division of Business Advisory Services found that Malibu failed to "substantially" meet eight of the nine conditions required under State law ("Proposed Malibu Split Fails to Meet County Conditions, Report Finds," September 7, 2021).

"The Malibu City Council cannot meet the criteria set forth in state law for unification unless and until there is a fair and equitable financial plan in place," Drati said.

"To date, no such plan has been proposed by the Malibu City Council."

Malibu officials are urging the County Committee to approve moving the proposal into the regular review process, where, with futher study, they are confident the conditions will be met.

In a statement issued last week, Malibu officials said they also remain open to a settlement reached through binding arbitration by a neutral third party, a proposal the District has rejected.

In his email Friday, Drati said the District needs to stop "spending valuable time, energy and resources in a continued and protracted battle."

"Right now, we need to focus all of our attention and resources on the business of educating our students in a safe and sustainable way during this ongoing pandemic," Drati wrote.

Drati encouraged opponents of the petition to weigh in by sending an email or prerecorded video comments by 4 p.m. Tuesday or by testifying during the public comment section of the Zoom meeting, which begins at 9.a.m.

Drati is asking opponents of the petition to indicate their participation by filing out a form that reads:

"Malibu's proposed split from SMMUSD would be discriminatory and would deprive all Santa Monica students of their fair share of the resources needed for an excellent education."

If the Committee votes on Saturday to proceed with Malibu's proposal, public hearings would be held in Santa Monica and Malibu and the impacts of the split would be further studied.

The State Department of Education would then make a final decision.

If the Committee denies the proposal, there is no avenue for Malibu to appeal, although a different petition could be presented by another group.

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