Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Our Community Already Pays the Highest Taxes in the Nation. So Why is the School District Appealing for Funds?

A response to SMMUSD Superintendent Antonio Shelton's Recent appeal for private donations questions why?

Editor's note: This is a response to the SMMUSD's recent appeal for private donations, at

Dear Dr. Shelton and Esteemed Members of the SMMUSD Board of Education,

We hope this letter finds you well. We are writing to you not just as concerned parents within the SMMUSD but as active community members deeply invested in the quality and integrity of our public education system. It is with a sense of urgency and responsibility that we address Dr. Shelton's recent urgent email appeal to district parents for additional donations to fund core academic programs and essential staff positions within our schools.

While we understand the importance of supplementary funding for enhancing educational experiences, we must express our profound concern over the recurring solicitations for parental donations amidst what can only be described as an exceptionally high tax environment. Our community already demonstrates its commitment to education through substantial (in fact, the nation's highest) property (as an objective amount, not percentage, due to our ultra high real estate prices in Malibu and Santa Monica), income (now at 14.4% top rate in California state), sales taxes exceeding 10%, and substantial real estate parcel taxes, not to mention the recently enacted Measure GS (the so-called "Himmelrich tax"), which significantly increases the district's financial resources through an additional 5% transfer tax on the total sales price of any property exceeding $8 million.

It is disheartening to witness the district's reliance on additional parental financial contributions for what should be fundamental educational provisions. This approach not only places undue burden on already burdened families but also raises serious questions about fiscal management and priority setting within our education system. The very fact that you have to urgently (to use your words) beg families of public school students to pay even more to receive what is a lawful right by state, despite having access to the broadest and largest revenue sources in the nation, if not the world, suggests that the SMMUSD has a spending and and priorities problem and not a revenue problem.

We respectfully urge the district to undertake a comprehensive review of its current expenditure, particularly the millions allocated to non-core academic initiatives. While we recognize the conceptual value of diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), social emotional learning, and discussions on gender and sexuality, DEI has been recently discredited as counterproductive and racist, many parents and religions are not supportive of sexual discussions (particularly with young children) at school, and the substantial investment in these areas (including millions spent on outside "DEI consultants" and time spent on DEI programming - often at the expense of essential academic programs in STEM, the arts, and support for instructional staff - suggests a misalignment of priorities.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District serves as a pertinent example of how strategic financial management and a focus on core academic excellence can yield a well-funded, high-quality educational environment without the need for additional parental contributions. Their ability to prioritize spending on core academics, maintain modern facilities, and provide superior nutritional offerings to students exemplifies what is possible when resources are allocated with discernment and efficiency.

We propose the following solutions for consideration:

· Conduct a thorough and fully transparent audit of current spending, with an aim to identify and reduce or eliminate expenditures on non-essential or redundant administrative roles and overhead costs.

· Reevaluate the allocation of funds towards social, political, religious, and non-core academic programs, redirecting those resources towards essential educational needs.

· Engage with community members, including parents and local business leaders, to form a task force dedicated to innovative financial strategies that enhance educational quality without additional burdens on families. Be sure to include a reasonable number of individuals who have historically been critical of the district's decisions, so that the task force has a diversity of opinions rather than becoming an echo chamber of the same ideas that got us here in the first place.

As parents and stakeholders in the future of our children and community, we are more than willing to offer our expertise and time to assist the district in these endeavors. We believe that through collaborative effort and a shared commitment to fiscal responsibility and educational excellence, SMMUSD can achieve a sustainable model that serves the best interests of all its students without resorting to repeated and often urgent calls for parental donations.

We appreciate your attention to these matters and look forward to your response. Together, we can ensure that our schools not only meet but exceed the educational needs and aspirations of every student in our community.


Houman David Hemmati, MD, PhD

Ellen Goldstein, MD


Reader Comments(1)

smmparent writes:

SMMUSD advocated for and closed schools for over 400+ days while simultaneously advocating for teachers to skip the line for vaccines. They refused to return to the classroom. During this same time, the SMMUSD Board purchased the doubletree facility at $21 million. Now, 4 years later, office space value has tanked and it is clear SMMUSD overpaid with taxpayer dollars. There was no reason to leave the previous space which had free parking. Meanwhile, the old space sits vacant and is a waste of taxpayer dollars. During this time, they have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on DEI consultants to teach racism. Outrageous. At the same time, they cut honors English and are discussing eliminating yearly class trips at JAMS. They are building SAMO, but not maintaining existing buildings. So children have leaking classrooms and crumbling buildings. But they gave HERO pay to janitors who were fully paid with no one on campus and teachers who didn't teach during the pandemic.