Personnel Commission

About Merit Rules

Rules and Regulations of Classified Service for Santa Monica Community College District

Merit Rules & Principles

A merit system is a method of personnel management designed to promote the efficiency and economy of the workforce and the good of the public by providing for the selection and retention of employees, in-service promotional opportunities, and other related matters, on the basis of merit and fitness.

There are more than 100 merit system school and college districts in California which employ almost 60 percent of the total classified (non-teaching) school employees in the state.

Merit Rules undergo regular reviews, and the most recent version can be found here.  Revisions made by the Merit Rules Advisory Committee are done in accordance with the California Education Code, Title 3, Article 3. Merit System [88060-88139]

Click here to see the Merit Rules Chapter breakdown.


  1. Hiring and promoting employees on the basis of ability, with open competition in initial appointment.
  2. Providing fair compensation on the basis of like pay for like work.
  3. Retaining employees on the basis of performance, correcting inadequate performances, and separating those whose inadequate performance cannot be corrected.
  4. Training employees as needed for high-quality performance.
  5. Assuring fair treatment of applicants and employees in all aspects of personnel administration without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or marital status, and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights as citizens.
  6. Protecting employees against political coercion and prohibiting use of official position to affect an election or nomination for office.

History of the Merit System

Prior to the adaptation of a merit system, a “spoils system” was widely used in local, state and federal government to fill public offices. This flawed system peaked its popularity in 1841 where thousands of unqualified people were employed into government positions based on their connections. Shortly after the Civil War came the realization that qualified workers needed to be hired to keep up with the growth of the government. Efforts of reformers to set regulations to public service office appointments were authorized in 1871 but failed after a couple of years. The merit system reemerged in 1883 as a result of a public demand for civil service and the great efforts of President Theodore Roosevelt. The Civil Service Act of 1883 also known as The Pendleton Act deemed it unlawful to practice patronage appointments of government positions.

In the following years, state and local civil service systems flourished, but it was not until 1936 that the first merit system law for school districts was established. California became the leader in the national movement toward merit systems in school systems where, as a result of a disgraceful patronage system in one of our larger school districts, more than 700 employees were fired on the day after an election to make room for political "spoilsmen."

The merit system was first adopted in Santa Monica College as part of the Santa Monica City Schools by the Board of Education on May 9, 1938.


Merit Rules Advisory Committee

A committee consisting of stakeholders dedicated to keeping the Merit Rules of Santa Monica College current and equitable.