As early as this April, the Los Angeles Board of Education will decide on the next superintendent to lead the city’s schools and on labor contract terms for public school teachers.
On May 9, Ref Rodriguez, the school board representative for Northeast Los Angeles, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on charges of perjury, conspiracy and political money laundering related to his school-board election campaign in 2015. Mr. Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty.
The fact that Mr. Rodriguez is set to cast important votes on the board while facing criminal charges has intensified the debate over whether he should resign while his case is ongoing.
That debate, in turn, is colored by the larger debate over charter schools, which are generally non-union, publicly funded schools that operate under fewer rules than traditional public schools. Having two public school systems existing side by side creates tension over financial resources and educational policy. Mr. Rodriguez is a prominent supporter of charter schools and his presence on the seven-member board makes for a 4-to-3 majority in favor of charter schools.
The teachers’ union wants Mr. Rodriguez to resign. Karla Greigo, the North Area Chair of United Teachers Los Angeles, told the Boulevard Sentinel that his case “brings a distraction to the district during a time when what we need is focus on our students, bringing more resources to our schools.”
Some parents of public school students have also called for Mr. Rodriguez to resign, saying he cannot be trusted with their children’s best interests while he fights felony prosecution.
But some parents of charter school students want Mr. Rodriguez to remain. Raquel Toscano, who has two children at Maywood Center for Enrichment Studies, a new charter school in Mr. Rodriguez’s district, told the Boulevard Sentinel that Mr. Rodriguez has provided more educational choices for parents in underserved communities.
Clearly, the stakes are high, for everyone.