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School Board Rejects Malibu's Last-Ditch Offer

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By Jorge Casuso

April 16, 2021 -- The School Board on Friday rejected Malibu's last-ditch proposal to have the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) determine the financial terms for the city's split from the School District.

Malibu's counter proposal -- which was rejected on a 5 to 2 vote in a special closed session -- required that both the District and the City agree to terms County officials determined were "fair and equitable."

A statement issued by the District after the vote said the School Board "is not comfortable agreeing to be bound by future recommendations -- sight unseen."

“To do otherwise would be an abdication of our responsibility to act in the best interests of our students,” said Board President Jon Kean.

“We continue to support the concept of unification, as long as it is equitable for both territories, but we will not relinquish our authority to ensure a fair outcome in the process,” Kean added.

“We again reiterate our desire to work cooperatively with the City and re-extend an invitation to the City to return to the negotiating table with the district.”

Craig Foster, the only Malibu resident on the seven-member board, and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, cast the two dissenting votes.

The Board's vote came on the eve of a meeting by the the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) Committee on School District Organization Saturday afternoon.

Malibu's offer comes after the City last October accused the District of "negotiating in bad faith" and re-petitioned the LACOE to intervene ("Malibu District Split Hits Major Roadblock," October 29, 2020).

Malibu's move prompted School District Superintendent Ben Drati to issue a statement saying, "We are deeply skeptical of what we’ve seen thus far."

While both parties agree to a split, they remain deeply split over the financial terms of the separation.

The District contends that the methodology utilized by the City of Malibu "results in an inequitable separation" that would result in a drop to District revenues after a split ("OPINION -- Critical Time Regarding Malibu Unification Efforts," April 9, 2021).

Malibu officials counter that their proposed tax-sharing agreement leaves the District with ample funds given the varied revenue sources from Santa Monica.

Saturday's Committee hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, April 17, 2021, via Zoom webinar. Testimony will be presented by the City of Malibu and SMMUSD, followed by public comment.

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