The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District has settled on an initial proposal that could eventually create a standalone Malibu School District.

At the March 20 special board meeting, the two sides seemed to agree to a 50-year revenue sharing plan that would allow the two districts to operate independently of each other with the possibility that Malibu schools could be reorganized into a semi-independent charter school program while the split is implemented.

In the agreed revenue sharing plan, the district would work with the City of Malibu on a framework built for: an equitable sharing of property between both districts, a potential sharing of discretionary or local revenues, a period of evaluating and/or adjusting the formula, a performance standard set so that any possible adjustments continue to be met, a guiding principle that stability and equity for all students in both districts is continuously met, and that the possibility of a charter configuration be used as an interstitial bridge to full independence, if requested by Malibu.

The agreement was made with conditional hopes that Malibu would withdraw their petition asking the Los Angeles County Office of Education to establish a standalone Malibu school district. Additionally, City Council would need to approve the next steps to be taken.

The successful agreement between Santa Monica and Malibu school districts marks a positive foot forward for both districts after years of separation talks.

Mayor of Malibu Rick Mullen and Malibu city Councilmember Laura Rosenthal were on hand for the public speaking portion of the board meeting to share their thoughts on the proposed plan. “We want to say we are cautiously optimistic and pleased by this proposal,” Rosenthal said. “It offers a genuine path for an independent Malibu. Local control is the number one priority to benefit our children.”

The city of Malibu echoed these statements in a later issued press release. Although the press release highlighted concern over the “extremely lengthy financial mechanism,” of the proposal, the city of Malibu says the proposal provides a “workable path to an independent MUSD,” which is why they wouldn’t decline the agreement.

“We’ll need to understand better the details of the proposal and how it does not create burdens that are more than what Malibu citizens would bear if the status quo were maintained,” the press release reads, “but we are open to understanding and, if need be, to finding creative ways to meet both sides’ objectives and we will always keep the needs and the best interests of our children in the forefront.”

Kevin Shenkman, a Malibu lawyer and resident, was the only other public speaker at the meeting. Upset by the proposal, Shenkman called the proposed inclusion of charter schools to Malibu an unworkable solution that would be a potential “disaster for labor unions,” further adding the charter model wouldn’t allow a “system of governance that’s workable.”

Board reception to the proposal was positive, save for the possibility of including charter schools to Malibu, with Boardmember Craig Foster calling their inclusion, “problematic,” but a problem that could be solved by a committee to oversee the districts’ separation.

Jon Kean, Vice President of the Board, noted that the Charter option isn’t for Santa Monica to decide, that Malibu could choose that option as a pathway to quicker independence, adding that if they choose to do so – despite knowing “no appetites for Charter in Malibu” — Santa Monica would support the choice.

Craig Foster, the only Malibu representative on the Santa Monica Malibu Unified District board, was satisfied with the proposal.

“When we started in 2010, people in Malibu wanted local control of their schools,” Foster said. “It was true in 2010 and its true now. From my point of view, that’s what we’re working for here and we’re doing that in a way that’s fair to both districts. For both communities, there are great benefits in reaching this conclusion.”

The measure passed 6 – 1. Boardmember Maria Leon-Vazquez was the only No vote.

angel@smdp.com

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