About CEPS

Our Mission

Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) is dedicated to the preservation and betterment of public schools in the Santa Monica -Malibu Unified School District.

In order to achieve this goal, we resolve:

  • To promote a shared community vision for excellence in our public schools that includes early childhood and post-secondary education;
  • To evaluate and pursue a range of short and long term funding measures through state, city and school district policies and elections;
  • To identify and support issues that will support education and public schools, including early childhood education, after-school programs, and post-secondary public education;
  • To increase public awareness of the value and uniqueness of our public schools;
  • To promote accountability for high quality public education by public institutions and public officials.
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History and Accomplishments


1999    Humble Origins

The seeds of CEPS are planted as a group of community activists and leaders is casually convened during Friday lunches to strategize about assisting SMMUSD, specifically Superintendent Neil Schmidt, with communication and seeking revenue sources.


The School Board places Measure Y on the ballot to renew the parcel tax at $98 per parcel. Members of the group that eventually becomes known as CEPS play key leadership roles in Measure Y campaign. Measure Y passes easily.

Members continue to meet on regular basis. Each year prior to key points in the City of Santa Monica’s budget cycle, members lobby City Council members and prepare remarks for Council meetings:  January for mid-year budget review and priority sessions; May for budget priority setting; June for annual budget adoption.

CEPS starts considering the possibility of sponsoring a ballot measure to ensure a reliable, ongoing, long-term stream of funding from the City of Santa Monica.  Such a measure would require a simple 50% majority, versus a parcel tax measure, requiring a 66.7% majority.

2002    Measure EE Fails; What do we do now?

SMMUSD, facing a severe $13 million budget shortfall due to California budget cuts to education, places Measure EE on the November ballot; it falls just short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass after an enormous grassroots effort led by individuals in the Friday group.  An ad hoc committee immediately forms to analyze possible alternatives.

2003    “CEPS” becomes official!

Facing the crisis of Measure EE not passing, and the revenue it would have generated not materializing, the now four-year old “casual” group formally becomes “Community for Excellent Public Schools” and invites education supporters from throughout the community to join.  Several hundred immediately become members and contribute to the cause, while organizing and working to pass the emergency funding measure placed on the ballot by the School Board to generate $6.5 million for six years, Measure S.

June 3, 2003  — Measure S passes with a margin of just 166 votes, equivalent to 0.01%!


June 10, 2003 – City Council Rejects Long-Term Funding Commitment

CEPS leads a rally on the lawn of Santa Monica City Hall to urge City Council to approve long-term, reliable funding to help SMMUSD weather the chronic shortage of funding from Sacramento, based on the philosophy that as the City prospers, so should its schools.  The City Council balks at committing to long-term funding, but allocates one-time funds.

Throughout the summer, CEPS convenes meetings to discuss the drafting of an Amendment to the City Charter creating an annual contribution formula from City of SM to SMMUSD.  CEPS hires legal counsel and drafts measure, anticipating November 2004 election.

January 2004 – CEPS launches new ballot measure effort

CEPS files a petition to amend the Charter of the City of Santa Monica, creating a source of funding for local public schools based on the additional revenue the City generates with its largest eight streams of revenue in its General Fund.

May 2004 – Negotiated “Contract” Terms Reached; CEPS Halts Ballot Measure

Then-Superintendent John Deasy and City Manager Susan McCarthy announce successful negotiations to create a contractual arrangement between the City of Santa Monica and SMMUSD that will provide long-term revenue to the schools, as an alternative to the proposed ballot measure CEPS is circulating.  CEPS agrees to forego submission of the signatures on its petitions as a compromise position.

July 2004 – $6 million per year

$6 million per year begins being allocated from the City of Santa Monica to SMMUSD, based on a “Master Facilities Use Agreement” that resulted from the Superintendent-City Manager negotiations and subsequent votes by the School Board and City Council.

November 2004  – CEPS Endorses and Rates Candidates for first time

During this Fall 2004 election cycle, CEPS hosts its first Candidates Forum to provide opportunities for voters to hear City Council and School Board candidates’ views on supporting education.  CEPS decides to endorse three School Board candidates and to rate City Council candidates in the November 2004 election.  CEPS runs one “voice blast,” and produces two mail pieces, created in partnership with SMMCTA, mailed to large targeted list of voters in the District.

CEPS also endorses and campaigns in support of Measure N, a 2% increase in the City of Santa Monica’s hotel visitors tax, with the understanding that it would “ease the burden” of increasing school funding via the Joint Facilities contract.

April 2005 – Caravan For Kids – the Statewide Push

CEPS partners with California State PTA to organize “Caravan For Kids”, a two-day, 8-city media event, bus caravan from all parts of the state, and rally on the steps of the State Capitol, to protest the Governor’s $2 billion budget grab of funds due to statewide education.

May 2005 – CEPS co-hosts RAND Forum 

RAND holds Forum on California’s K-12 Funding, co-sponsored by CEPS.

May 2006 – First “State of Our Schools” 

CEPS organizes the first annual “State of Our Schools” events in Santa Monica and Malibu to showcase and report on SMMUSD’s academic achievements, financial status and future challenges. 

June 2007 – Santa Monica City Council Votes Half Million Dollar Increase to Agreement

Focusing on terms of the Facilities Use Agreement between SMMUSD and City of Santa Monica, CEPS begins lobbying efforts to support increasing the annual amount of funding conveyed to the District from the City.  In June 2007, City Council agrees to increase the approximately $7 million by $529,000, based on the City’s increased revenues, conditioned upon certain provisions to improve delivery of services in the realm of Special Education.

Fall 2007 – Measure R Campaign Launched

CEPS leadership serves as core of ad hoc committee to analyze and recommend to the School Board that a renewal of two parcel taxes with impending expiration dates, be placed on the February 5, 2008 ballot.  CEPS Steering Committee devotes 100% of its efforts to the campaign.  Raising $275,000, producing 13 pieces of direct mail, and organizing massive volunteer voter outreach.

February 2008 – Measure R Passes

Yes on R succeeds in garnering 73% of the vote, putting into place permanent funding of $11 million a year, plus annual cost of living adjustments, for SMMUSD.

April 2009 – Master Facilities Use Agreement Renewed at $7.4 million per year

Santa Monica City Council approves a three year renewal of the Master Facilities Use Agreement (the “Contract”), continuing the $7.4 million per year in funding, with annual cost of living adjustments.

May 2009 – S.M. City Council Approves Funds for Santa Monica High School “Civic Center Joint Use Project”

Santa Monica City Council gives priority to $81 million in redevelopment debt capacity for Civic Center Joint Use Project, advocated for by Santa Monica High School coalition; CEPS endorses project and testifies at Council meeting.

January 2010 – Measure A Campaign Launched

School Board votes to place a funding measure on a May 25 special election all-mail ballot, proposing to levy a $198 per-parcel emergency and temporary tax to help schools weather the state fiscal crisis. CEPS again actively works on campaign, serving in key leadership positions. 

May 25, 2010 – Measure A Falls Just Short

Measure A garners 64% of the vote, falling just short of the 2/3 majority needed to pass.

Summer 2010 – Save Our Schools!

The entire education community coalesces to launch “Save Our Schools,” the emergency fundraising effort that raised $1.6 million to stave off the worst of the $5.7 million in cuts made in the wake of Measure A’s failure.

July 2010 – Santa Monica City Council Places Propositions Y&YY on Ballot

Santa Monica City Manager Rod Gould proposes a transaction and use tax, and the Santa Monica City Council votes to place the measure on the November 2010 ballot, with a companion measure that advises half the funds generated to be directed to local schools.  CEPS actively works on all aspects of the campaign co-chaired by Shari Davis and Tom Larmore.  Finance co-chairs Rebecca Kennerly and Chris Harding raise $375,000 to provide the resources to communicate effectively with Santa Monica voters.

November 2, 2010 – Propositions Y&YY Pass!

Propositions Y and YY pass with 62% and 68% of the vote, respectively.

June 2011 – Proposition Y funds begin flowing to SMMUSD

Both the City Manager and School Board approve the terms of the agreement that provides the mechanism for half of the Prop. Y revenues to be conveyed to SMMUSD.  CEPS Steering Committee members play key roles in developing language and advocating for the agreement.  City of Santa Monica projects that SMMUSD will receive $5.7 million from Prop.Y funds in 2011-12.

January 2012 – 5th State of Our Schools Events in Malibu and Santa Monica

Superintendent Sandra Lyon presents new devastating financial projections, based on California’s worsening budget crisis and cuts to education.

May 2012 – Master Facilities Use Agreement Renewed for Ten Years

Santa Monica City Council approves a ten-year renewal of the Master Facilities Use Agreement (the “Contract”), continuing the $8.1 million per year in funding, with annual cost of living adjustments.

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State of our Schools 2006
2009 master facilities
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measure A 2010