With naming rights occupying a prime spot in the local consciousness following the Staples Center becoming Crypto.com Arena, the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District adopted a set of guidelines last week for naming school facilities after private donors.

While no facilities have been named in exchange for donations yet, the guidelines establish some basic rules should the opportunity arise.

The guidelines cover the relevance of the gift to operations, the value of the asset to be named, kinds of gifts other than cash, duration of naming rights, ethics/morals of the donor, compatibility with existing laws, coordination of fundraising campaigns, approval authority of the board and exceptions to the guidelines.

Naming opportunities include both tangible (such as campuses, outreach centers, buildings, outdoor facilities, laboratories, classrooms, and conference rooms) and intangible (schools, departments, campus centers and institutes, academic chairs, teaching chairs, and scholarship funds) assets.

Ultimately, the School Board retains total control over any proposed deal but the rules allow the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation or the corresponding Malibu fundraising entity to solicit donations and make recommendations about the deals.

The Board unanimously approved the guidelines after saying the District needed tools to continue to fund education and that the guidelines had several layers of controls in place over any potential naming rights.

Boardmember Craig Foster said he was initially leery of the policy due to lacking some specifics but he realized the complexity of possible sponsorships mean a policy has to be broad in scope to start with and that as the Board has ultimate control, nothing can happen without appropriate approval.

“Money doesn’t educate kids. Teachers educate kids, the environment educates kids but money creates opportunities that teachers and kids can use to learn. So I think taking the opportunity to raise money for programs for facilities for really anything, Well, not anything but things in pursuit of educational excellence for our kids, closing the achievement gap, hitting our goals, is a good thing to do. And I feel like this policy creates a good framework with enough details that we can move forward.”

Laurie Lieberman agreed with the need to raise money and said SMMUSD was far from along in considering a naming policy.

“In the world I’d love to be living in, we would name everything for people like Barack, Michelle Obama, and we wouldn’t have to have a naming policy and we wouldn’t need more money. But Craig said it one way and I’ll just say it a different way: public schools are not funded at levels that they need to be in order to serve students. And so unfortunately this is one of the ways, there are other ways, that it’s one of the ways that schools are able to raise money to provide a better education for their students.”


Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...