May twenty-second, 2012 may have been one of the five or so most important days for Santa Monica-Malibu schools in the last decade. It was the day that the Santa Monica City Council voted 5-1 to support Agenda Item 8-B and extend the Master Facilities Use Agreement and Related SupplementalAgreements with the Santa Monica- Malibu Unified School District for a term of ten years with a subsequent five-year extension.
The item took about thirty minutes from start to finish, however the event that transpired in those fairly undramatic moments solidified a decidedly dramatic sea change in the fabric of Santa Monica politics.
The Master Facilities Use Agreement, which provides stable ongoing funding from the City of Santa Monica to SMMUSD schools in exchange for community access to school recreational facilities in off hours, was forged by conflict. In 2004 when the Agreement was first established, the City and the schools were such separate entities that a relationship any deeper than polite acquaintance was controversial. Yet today, the true interdependence between the two is deeply felt.
Of course, it is tragic that the State of California has so underfunded its schools and undervalued its youth that it has virtually knocked the State’s educational system to its knees. In decades past, both public education and local municipalities were adequately funded and able to provide residents and students with excellent services and preparation for the future. However, up and down this once-golden state, funding for public education has been slashed, forcing our youth, and ultimately our entire State to pay the consequences.
Santa Monica, however, was not about to allow the State’s ongoing crisis to decimate its proudly excellent public schools. The correlation between excellent public education and a strong city was, in the minds of many leaders in our community, undeniable.
In the summer of 2003, Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) started discussing an Amendment to the Charter of the City of Santa Monica, which would create an annual contribution from the City of Santa Monica to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
|CEPS co-chairs Shari Davis and Louise Jaffe with co-founder|
Ralph Mecher file proposed Charter Amendment with
Santa Monica City Clerk Maria Stewart in January 2004
In January of 2004, CEPS filed the proposed amendment to the City Charter, and by May, CEPS had raised over $100,000 and gathered 15,000 signatures to qualify its proposed charter amendment for the November 2004 municipal election.
Later that month, then SMMUSD Superintendent John Deasy and City Manager Susan McCarthy reached an 11th-hour compromise agreement -- the Facilities Use Agreement. After much political wrangling, heated debate, and raised tempers, all parties signed off on the agreement, including CEPS, the SMMUSD Board of Education, the Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTAs and, of course, the Santa Monica City Council. CEPS agreed that it would not turn in its signatures and the Charter Amendment was not placed on the ballot.
Flash forward eight years to May 22, 2012. The relationship between the education community and City leadership has developed into a strong and extremely productive partnership. In its letter in support of the Master Facilities Agreement renewal, CEPS co-chairs stated,
“CEPS is also extremely grateful to the City Council for its willingness to create this compromise in 2004. Since that time, we have seen the relationship between the schools and City leadership warm considerably into the proud partnership that exists today, and this renewal of the agreement as proposed by City Manager Gould and his staff is great proof that the partnership is mutually beneficial for both our schools and City.
Education leaders have joined forces with the City on a number of joint projects such as the “Buy Local” program and the Youth Resource Team, as well as support for campaigns that benefited the City, such as the TOT and UUT measures and, most recently, the successful campaign for Propositions Y + YY.”
So many leaders have courageously stepped forward to support the partnership between the schools and the City. CEPS feels strongly that both the City of Santa Monica and its schools are strengthened by this strong and enduring partnership. The skies on Sacramento’s fiscal horizon continue to darken, threatening not only schools, but municipalities, and services for everyone in need. Only by joining together locally, will we weather these storms and succeed in protecting all residents and students from what will almost certainly be ongoing and, even increased hardships coming from Sacramento.
Thank you to the Santa Monica City Council, City Manager Rod Gould, the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education, Superintendent Sandra Lyon and an army of education, business and community leaders for helping make this partnership a reality.