My latest commentary for 97.5 KBU, and everywhere on radiomalibu.net, a hot topic in Malibu. As I have noted previously, the more local the issue, be it planning, the public schools or whatever, the more engaged the public, the healthier the community.
If anything came out of the most recent Board meeting of the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, it was the resolve of Malibu for its own district, and the distressing recalcitrance of the Santa Monica majority.
The meeting in Santa Monica I feel was very much a reflection of present community concerns, and a harbinger of an inevitable political battle in the district.
In the middle of this morass is an evolving Malibu and no less than the efficacy of public education.
Scores of parents present and past, filled the district’s alien headquarters to urge and argue for a locally controlled district, joined in by City Council.\
But before they could testify they had to wait for several hours to listen to a district assistant drone on about a report that contended the separation of the two cities would result in fewer dollars for Santa Monica students,
This contradicts an earlier report that indicated there would be NO loss of funding for either district in a separation, and in fact both would benefit, though maybe not the Santa Monica district central bureaucracy. There’s the rub.
Having occasionally in my maverick career indulged in institutional oversight, as an administrator and investigative journalist, the projections appeared cooked, in the charts of jumbled numbers and in their mumbled explanations.
Unfortunately, Malibu is frankly viewed by a gaggle of Santa Monica’s self-righteous board members as a cash cow for the district, while their own city continues to gentrify, marked by an increasing tax base and a decreasing student population.
If they are worried about losing students, and state subsidies, to bolster their bureaucratic budgets they could easily accept willing transfers from bordering Venice and West L.A.
And even if the district’s projections were correct, student needs should be the bottom line, not money, which incidentally does not necessarily translate into a better education system.
Malibu is essentially a small rural city; Santa Monica an urban entity, with a disproportionate voter ratio of 84% to 16%. As a result, Malibu is consistently on the short end of the stick for district resources.
Make no mistake about it, for all its pretensions and popular liberal image Santa Monica is innately conservative, yielding to a self serving bureaucracy, under a sham egalitarian banner.
Malibu citizens need to be able to rectify their own academic and administrative school issues in a timely, responsible and reasonable manner; and should not need to travel to another town to attend meetings to beg. SMMUSD is the last district in the state of California that joins two geographically separate cities, an anomaly in public school administrative policy.
The separation is a democratic imperative that cannot be denied, the arguments for are urgent, and also frankly ethical.