Skip to main content

MB News

MBEF Delivers Urgent $1.325M Grant to Manhattan Beach Schools

May 06, 2024 12:10AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

The Manhattan Beach Education Foundation supports programs such as Makerspace, as demonstrated by this Makerspace model of the Manhattan Beach Pier that MBEF displayed at the Manhattan Beach Hometown Fair.

The Manhattan Beach Education Foundation has granted $1.325 million to the Manhattan Beach schools in an urgent effort to rescind some layoffs slated for the 2024/2025 school year.

Typically, MBEF presents its grants to the Manhattan Beach Unified School District in June, but MBEF expedited its timelines for this grant due to what the district called the "urgency" of looming layoffs.

"The [past] years have proven that funding is just simply inadequate within the state of California, and this year in particular, the budget has proven to be simply catastrophic," MBEF Executive Director Hilary Mahan told the school board last week, in explaining MBEF's decision to allocate the initial grant.

Mahan noted that MBEF's board had worked with school district leadership to determine the most effective areas of allocation. This $1.325 million grant will provide support for:

  • A partial restoration of the elementary MakerSpace program
  • A partial restoration of the elementary physical education program
  • Support for staffing for the MBMS humanities program
  • Restoration of the Mira Costa counseling program, including the College and Career Center.

The district plans to rescind some of the layoff notices and bring back staff where possible.

MBUSD Board Chair Cathey Graves thanked MBEF for its "extraordinary" effort to work with the district to make the grants possible, and noted that it was "unprecedented" for MBEF to award an expedited grant like this one.  "It's critical for our community to be able to maintain our staffing to the extent that we can, and we so much appreciate the efforts that MBEF has made to support us," she said.

In an email to parents on Friday, MBUSD Superintendent John Bowes thanked MBEF for supporting Manhattan Beach schools for the past 40 years, "especially when we needed it most." He added, "We also want to thank every individual who donated to MBEF—your support for our schools will be seen for years to come."

This initial allocation represents just one part of MBEF's pledged support for Manhattan Beach schools for 2024/25. MBEF will bring a second set of proposed grants for 2024/25 to the board later in the year based on ongoing fundraising efforts, including the Annual Appeal, other donations, and the Paddle Raise at the Manhattan Wine Auction, which will be dedicated to restoring teaching positions.

"This is just the start. This $1.3 million is not anywhere near what our community can make possible," said Mahan. "We are working diligently to raise more funding and allocate that in the most effective way to ensure excellence in our classrooms."

Budget Cuts and Revenue Plans

Manhattan Beach schools have struggled this spring with impending budget cuts. Earlier this year, the school board had approved a series of resolutions that included the layoff of more than 39 full-time equivalent positions in the district. Bowes cited the state's worsening budget condition along with other uncertainties compounding difficulties for the district.

In March, Manhattan Beach residents voted to approve Measure MB, the renewal of an existing parcel tax at the fixed rate of $225 per parcel for six additional years to benefit Manhattan Beach public schools. The funding generated by the original Measure MB, which is set to expire in June 2024, has yielded approximately $2.4 million per year, sustaining more than 20 teaching and staff positions as well as essential programs. With the renewal of Measure MB, that funding stream will continue for six years and cannot be taken away by the state.

The district is also investigating the possibility of putting a $200 million bond on the November ballot for facilities needs. The bond would take over when a previous bond expired, meaning that funding could still be provided for school facilities while taxes would remain at the same rate.

MBUSD Budget Situation Complex; Unusual

Why does Manhattan Beach, a generally upper-middle-class community, appear to have chronic school funding problems? The answer lies in part in the way that California funds its public school districts.

California school districts are classified in one of two ways, as "basic aid" or "revenue limit" districts. "Basic aid" districts have high property tax revenue dating back to before Prop. 13 was passed in 1978. These districts, such as Laguna Beach and Palo Alto, are able to collect enough property taxes to fully fund their schools and are allowed to keep the excess beyond what the state would have given them (resulting in high per-pupil amounts such as $23,000 per student in Laguna Beach).

Manhattan Beach, on the other hand, is a "revenue limit" district, meaning that it does not collect enough property tax, based on pre-Prop. 13-era calculations, to fully fund its schools. Less than 20% of property taxes raised in Manhattan Beach are allocated to fund its local schools – making MBUSD a revenue limit district and dependent on state funding to reach the minimum target set by the state for per pupil funding.

Additionally, to distribute funds to its school districts, California uses the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The LCFF allocates additional resources to public school districts with higher numbers of students who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, are English Language Learners, and/or are foster youth. Since Manhattan Beach does not have high numbers of those students, MBUSD receives one of the lowest per-pupil funding levels in the state.

According to MBEF, converting to a Basic Aid district is a possibility for Manhattan Beach, but it will only occur when the percentage of property tax dollars allocated to education in a district exceeds the per-pupil target from the state. In the case of Manhattan Beach, this will likely occur in the next 10-12 years, when local property tax revenues increase to a point where 20% is well above the state distribution. (Local education leaders have advocated for changing the funding structure with the state legislature over the years, but protecting the benefits of Proposition 13 has been a significant priority for the state.) Manhattan Beach continues to receive more than $2,000 below the statewide per-pupil average before local support, increasing the district's need to rely on such locally generated sources of income as MBEF grants.

Subscribe to MB News Emails * Don't Miss a Thing, Sign Up Today!

* indicates required
Email Format

Subscribe to MB News Emails * Don't Miss a Thing, Sign Up Today!

* indicates required
Email Format