September 20, 2017Press Release
Facing felony charges and more than two dozen criminal counts, Ref Rodriguez announced Tuesday that he is stepping down as president but will remain on the school board. As members of the union representing 35,000 teachers and educators in the Los Angeles Unified School District, we do not believe this goes far enough. We do not have confidence in his ability to lead, and therefore are calling for his resignation from the LAUSD School Board.
His decision to stay on the board runs afoul of the commitment needed for his elected position, to the students, parents and educators he is meant to serve. It is not reflective of a “kids first” agenda he and his colleagues trumpet so often.
While we believe in due process rights, choosing to stay on as a board member means he will continue to make long-lasting policy decisions, including who becomes the next board president.
Our students will take a back seat to what happens next in this criminal case. His voting record as a school board member, including possible conflicts of interest, will inevitably all be called into question.
Ref Rodriguez was aware of the criminal investigation by the LA District Attorney’s office, and yet accepted the school board president nomination in July, knowing these serious allegations would come to light. He abused the trust of his colleagues, as well as the public, including the educators, parents and students in the LAUSD community.
Rodriguez’s 2014-15 campaign was funded by the CA charter lobby – $3 million from the California Charter Schools Association and its various PACs. By allegedly laundering money to more than two dozen family members, charter school staff and friends, he presented a larger base of support than what was truly there, and established legitimacy as a candidate at a pivotal point in the school board election campaign.
We question his willingness to be held accountable. The charges he faces are more than, in his words, “a distraction” from the work that needs to be done.
Since these allegations came to light last week, his response, through his lawyer, has been to minimize the charges, claiming the donations in question equaled a small amount of money and took place two years ago.
His role in this investigation and his response to these egregious criminal charges indicate a severe lack of judgment. His behavior sets a bad example for our students and fosters an unethical environment for the nation’s second largest school district. It indicates he does not feel accountable to the higher standards his office demands.
Our students deserve better.
Therefore, we, the members of UTLA, are calling for his immediate resignation.
Alex Caputo-Pearl, President
Cecily Myart-Cruz, UTLA/NEA Vice President
Juan Ramirez, UTLA/AFT Vice President
Gloria Martinez, Elementary Vice President
Daniel Barnhart, Secondary Vice President
Alex Orozco, Treasurer
Arlene Inouye, Secretary