LAUSD School Board Member Ref Rodriguez Resigns. Now what?
- LA Times Editorial Board
When Ref Rodriguez was first charged with felonies related to his 2015 election to the LAUSD School Board, his attorney declared that it was “much ado about nothing”. It actually amounted to a great deal since Rodriguez is now a convicted felon after pleading guilty and stepping down from his position on the Board. Unfortunately for the students of the district, this will not undo the damage that has been done in the 11 months it took to resolve the case. During this time, the charter industry supported majority that included Rodriguez, appointed a Superintendent without any experience in education and dismissed an Inspector General who dared to investigate corruption at charter schools that were authorized by the district.
It is clear that Board President Monica Garcia has no interest in quickly filling the seat vacated by Rodriguez or in protecting the scarce education funds that are supposed to benefit the students of the LAUSD. With immediate action, it appears that the Board could have called for a special election that would piggy-back on the regularly scheduled November election in time for the August 11 filing deadline. However, Garcia has not even bothered to call a special meeting in the wake of Rodriguez’ resignation. Therefore, it appears that the issue will not even come before the voters until the Spring in a special election that will have to be paid for with education funds. This matters little to Garcia, Melvoin, and Gonez as the charter schools that supported their campaigns receive their funds directly from the state and will not have to contribute financially to this election.
- LA Times Editorial Board
The information that was used to criminally charge Rodriguez was available before the election took place, but the LA Times Editorial Board still endorsed him. Now that their preferred candidate has been pushed from office, they decry how “his actions have shown how little he considered what he owed the public.” Even worse, they want the seat to remain empty and the stakeholders to remain unrepresented until an election can be held. They hold up the vacancy created after Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte’s death as the example that should be followed but neglect to point out that the city’s charter has been changed since that event. In fact, former Board member Steve Zimmer fought for a temporary voting member to be placed on the board prior to the special election but was told that action would have violated the rules in place at the time.
The LA Times is correct in asserting that “by having a board member who broke the law to gain office, Rodriguez’s district already lacked legitimate representation.” The residents of District 5 are the victims of Rodriguez’ crimes and they should be made whole. This means a special election held as quickly as possible and the immediate appointment of a temporary caretaker with voting privileges. The person appointed should have the experience needed so as to be immediately effective and agree not to run in the special election so they will not skew the results by having achieved incumbent status undemocratically.
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.