SMMUSD Budget Update

Advocacy Team (if applicable): 

Early this week, arts education advocates along with many other parents, educators, and community members in Santa Monica and Malibu were disappointed to learn that Measure A failed according to the latest vote count.* Measure A, a parcel tax initiative conducted by SMMUSD through a mail-in only election, was the district’s best shot at retaining many of its programs and staff.

The measure needed a 2/3 vote in favor to pass. It received just over 63% of the vote, missing the mark by only a few percentage points. As a result of this news, the school board was forced to make millions more in cuts than they were hoping to. During the course of two board meetings this week, the board shaved $7,175,000 from the district budget for 2010-11.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Arts Education Advocacy Team had been working throughout the spring to make the case for maintaining the elementary arts program’s ten teaching positions as well as the Arts Coordinator administrative position. The campaign included nearly 300 letters to board members, one-on-one meetings with several board members, and outreach on behalf of Measure A that included phonebanking, precinct walking, sending emails and making announcements at spring concerts.

Of the ten elementary music teaching positions that were on the cut list, six were taken off, and the Arts Coordinator was maintained at the administrative level for now. While this is indeed a significant hit and great disappointment, the preservation of over half of the program is a testament to the commitment of the school board and the hard work of the district’s arts education advocates. Cuts to the elementary arts program were made proportionally, accounting for $320,000 of the $7,125,000 total.

The Board of Education voted to approve a districtwide fundraising campaign through the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, allowing donations to be earmarked for elementary and secondary class size reduction, as well as restoration of the elementary music teaching positions and counselor positions. Donors will be able to designate their contributions to either an elementary fund or a secondary fund or both. If funds are raised above the targets, those funds will go into an Ed Foundation account reserved for the Board to reduce other budget cuts. Next Thursday, June 3, the Board will continue to discuss other fundraising priorities, including music. The district will also be looking to work with community partners and local businesses to sustain arts programming in creative and resourceful ways. The results of Measure A were not enough to stop the budget cuts, but they do indicate a strong support for the school district and for arts education in Santa Monica and Malibu. A heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who voted in favor of Measure A, and all the advocates who have worked so hard in this effort.

For more information about the Santa Monica-Malibu Arts Education Advocacy Team, click here.