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Malibu Split Gets Third Hearing Wednesday

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By Jorge Casuso

November 8, 2021 -- School District and Malibu City officials are gearing up for the next round Wednesday in the contentious battle over Malibu's proposal to split from the District.

The 6 p.m. Zoom meeting of the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization comes nearly two months after it overwhelmingly voted to keep alive Malibu's proposal ("Malibu Petition to Split from School District Stays on Track," September 20, 2021).

The Committee's third hearing Wednesday focuses on gathering more information and taking additional public testimony, but both sides are mobilizing their troops.

District officials will continue to urge the committee to deny Malibu's petition, arguing a split would create an overwhelmingly white Maiblu District and financially harm a stand-alone Santa Monica District.

After six years of negotiations that turned increasingly acrimonious, District officials say they are less optimistic than ever that an equitable departure will be reached.

"Malibu’s proposals have consistently revolved around an inequitable distribution of financial resources that would cause irreparable harm to students in both Santa Monica and Malibu," Superintendent Ben Drati wrote in an email to the community Monday.

"While we continue to request that the Committee deny the petition our door is open to unification," Drati wrote, urging opponents of the proposal to sign up to speak at the meeting.

"We must ensure that students in both communities may continue to enjoy the high quality education that SMMUSD is known for."

Malibu officials are also drumming up support for Wednesday's meeting and conducting a survey "to solicit feedback from community members regarding what they value and what they want from the future MUSD."

“Schools are integral to our community," Mayor Paul Grisanti said in a statement October 29. "We need local control of our schools so that they may reflect our community values.

"This is why school district separation remains one of the top priorities of the City and why I urge everyone to complete this survey and let their voices be heard.”

The survey is part of an ongoing "visioning project" -- which also includes focus groups -- that will be used to address one of the the eight conditions that County officials say "may not be substantially met" by Malibu.

The condition requires the petitioners to ensure “the proposed reorganization will continue to promote sound education performance and will not significantly disrupt the educational programs in the districts affected by the proposed reorganization.”

Of the nine conditions analyzed in the report from the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), the only one Malibu "substantially met" was that the split "is not primarily designed to substantially increase property values."

Among the key conditions Malibu must still meet are that the split will not have a significant impact on the two separate districts and will not promote ethnic discrimination or segregation ("Proposed Malibu Split Fails to Meet County Conditions, Report Finds," September 7, 2021).

The Committee will vote on whether to approve Malibu's proposal next March. If it does so, it could take five years before the petition is placed for a public vote.

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