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City of Malibu Files for 'Divorce' from Santa Monica-Malibu School District


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

October 3, 2017 -- After more than a year of negotiations, the City of Malibu has filed for “divorce” from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD).

The filing with a county committee on school district organization comes after more than a year of talks and about 40 negotiating sessions.

The papers were filled with the Los Angeles County Committee for School District Organization last month. A spokesperson did not know the status of Malibu’s petition to exit SMMUSD.

The petition would remove the wealthy seaside colony from the district of about 13,000 students. Only students from Malibu attend district schools there.

At its August 28 meeting, the Malibu City Council directed the papers be filed unilaterally, but a SMMUSD spokesperson said talks continue between the district and Malibu separatists.

“Talks are ongoing within the district, the board of education, and the Malibu community,” said Gail Pinsker, a district spokesperson.

A discussion item on the proposed split is planned for a school board meeting in November, she said.

“SMMUSD recently requested a report from School Services of California to further analyze this issue and that is expected in the next month or so, ”Pinsker said.

“The school board and district administration understands the strong interest in Malibu to separate and is taking this complicated issue very seriously,” she said.

“It is important that the stand alone Santa Monica district does not result in less per-student funding than a Malibu district.”

Malibu’s long campaign for its own district took a major step forward two years ago when the school board agreed to the idea ("Santa Monica School Board Members Support Malibu Split, Questions Remain," December 2, 2015).

The Unification Committee has been meeting routinely since March of 2016 working to reach a compromise that would academically and financially benefit both.

In February, it announced it had agreed to the terms of separation ("Panel Reaches Proposed Agreement on Santa Monica-Malibu School District Split," February 28, 2017).

The financial impact, however, remains unclear, (See "OPINION: A Separate School District for Mailbu, But How Much Should Santa Monica Give Up?" by foremer School Board member Jose Escarce.)

Earlier this year, Los Angeles County Committee for School District Organization approved a petition from parents in the Sagebrush community seeking to split from Glendale Unified School District and instead join the La Canada Flintridge Unified School District.

Dividing a school district requires a California Environmental Quality Review followed by a public vote.


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