The debate to split Santa Monica and Malibu into two separate school districts has heated up again and school officials aren’t the only ones weighing in on the matter.

Mayor Sue Himmelrich, Mayor Pro Tem Kristin McCowan, and Councilmember Phil Brock have requested that City Council affirm its support for splitting Santa Monica and Malibu into two separate independent school districts as long as the division of revenues and assets are fair and just to students in Santa Monica schools and provide robust and equal educational opportunity for both Malibu and Santa Monica students.

Councilmembers are expected to reaffirm their position during a Council meeting Tuesday, only a few days after the Los Angeles County Office of Education announced its Committee on School District Organization will hold a public hearing on the petition at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 17, via Zoom, but they won’t be the first to do so.

Darrell Goode, president of the local NAACP Branch, formally submitted a letter to oppose the City of Malibu’s petition to secede Malibu from the SMMUSD back in December.

“After extensive conversations with the District and after reviewing the petition, Malibu’s petition personifies everything that our organization fights against on a daily basis,” Goode said. “The most alarming component of the petition is that it seeks to redline the Malibu school community away from the Santa Monica school community. In doing that, Malibu has made it clear that they do not prioritize the value of diversity. Instead, as evidenced by their petition, they are seeking to create a school district that will be predominantly white, and over time, has the potential of having little to no diversity.“

Goode also shared he was troubled with the fact that research shows that students of color going to school in Malibu already feel segregated and not included in the community. “If this petition is approved, that feeling of segregation will be further exasperated,” he said.

The ACLU Foundation of Southern California opposed the City of Malibu’s renewed petition on similar grounds. It specifically cited Malibu City Council’s petition does not substantially meet the conditions set forth in Education Code section 35753(a), which state that proposals for reorganization may be approved only when it will result in an equitable division of property and facilities of the original district or districts and will preserve each affected district’s ability to educate pupils in an integrated environment.

‘Malibu’s Petition will impermissibly increase segregation by drawing two separate school districts that would be grossly racially imbalanced,” Director of Education Equity Victor Leung said. “Currently, the District’s total enrollment reflects 51.1% white students, 27.1% (Latino) students, 6.8% Asian students, 0.7% Filipino students, 5.9% Black students, and 7.3% multi-racial students. The Petition, however, will carve out an enclave in Malibu, which will create a new overwhelmingly white district.”

Meanwhile, a new Santa Monica district would shift from a district comprising a majority of white students to one comprising a majority of students of color, according to Leung. In contrast, the proposed Malibu district is expected to serve mostly white students (78.4%), which will cause the percentage of students of color to reduce by more than half.

“Accordingly, the Petition will necessarily exacerbate racial segregation,, to the detriment of students attending both proposed districts,” Leung added, moving to address the financials of the situation.” Amplifying the harm caused by the segregation, the Petition would concentrate school funding on Malibu, the proposed district that would serve far more white students. According to the District’s projections, within five years, students in the proposed Malibu district would be receiving $37,599 per student, while students in the proposed Santa Monica district would be receiving only $15,486.

“Recognizing this fact, Malibu’s petition does not just create walls, it will also severely impact Santa Monica’s students, as they will have less dollars in their classrooms. Dollars that Santa Monica residents happily invested into the District to serve students in both communities,” Goode said. “If Santa Monica residents knew that the dollars they have invested in both communities would be used to selfishly supplant shared property taxes for the benefit of Malibu residents only, we are certain they would not have been so willing to make those investments.”

brennon@smdp.com