The Santa Monica City Council has extended for three years an agreement to provide funding to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in exchange for city use of school facilities.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday, April 7th, to continue the master facilities use agreement, implemented in 2005, through June 2012. As part of the agreement, the city will increase its base payment to the school district by two to four percent for each of the next three years, bringing the total funding to $7.6 million next year.

In exchange for the funding, the city and community will be able to use school sports fields, recreational facilities and buildings during non-school hours. Through the deal, the school district will be required to maintain its Special Education District Advisory Committee or a similar committee, which reviews the special education policies and programs, makes recommendations and reports to the Board of Education.

Some council members questioned the cityís ability to continue funding with unforeseen financial challenges, but despite the current economic crisis, the council extended its commitment to keeping school programs a priority. Mayor Ken Genser said he has seen tremendous improvement by the district and called the agreement ìreasonable.î

ìIím very serious in my commitment to this being a priority of the city,î the mayor said. ìThe real issue here is educating kids and making sure that all kids have access to a quality education.î

Councilman Richard Bloom, who said he has been a council advocate for providing funding to schools, added, ìWe have a history in this city across the board in supporting education.î

School board members expressed gratitude to the council for continuing the agreement, which allows for better use of school facilities.

ìWe highly value this partnership for the benefit of our community,î school board President Ralph Mechur said. ìTogether we are providing recreational and cultural opportunities for residents of all ages and together we are providing broader and stronger education for all of our students.î

School board Vice President Barry Snell noted that the city funding helps the district maintain ìan array of programs.î

Among the other groups that offered praise for the continued facilities partnership were the Parent Teacher Association Council and the Community for Excellent Public Schools.

ìThis funding is absolutely crucial to our schools with the current budget crisis at the state level requiring deep cuts to education,î said Shari Davis, chair of Community for Excellent Public Schools. ìThe renewal of this contract will not only be felt by every student in our schools, but also by city residents throughout Santa Monica.î