The Lost Honor of Ref Rodriguez

EDUCATION POLITICS-The story of LAUSD School Board member and former President Ref Rodriguez gets more pathetic. Hewas arrested recently on suspicion of being drunk in public at a Pasadena restaurant. 

Although we don’t know the details about what he was doing to get himself arrested, Rodriguez was taken to jail at 4:30 p.m. from a Pasadena bar and held there for more than five and a half hours. This is on top of awaiting trial for money laundering charges involving his school board election. 

I’m not here to kick Rodriguez any further. 

The guy simply needs to be put out of his misery but, it seems, his backers won’t release him. He was set up to run for a reason and that was to deliver the goods for his patrons on School Reform and bolster the Charter Lobby’s agenda. 

Ref Rodriguez is just a small fry whose backstory is indeed inspiring. Heralding from Cypress Park, he was the first of five children of Mexican immigrants to graduate from college. He shares a background with many of our own students and it obviously took a lot of hard work and dedication for him to navigate to the heights he reached. 

His fall is due to trusting too much in those who “helped” him along the way. 

Rodriguez has learned the hard way that he was played. First, Rodriguez was wooed by the education graduate program at Loyola which has become a powerful Ed Reform incubator in Los Angeles. He would eventually get sucked into the world of corporate education reform where power players saw in the puppy-faced student a lamb who might succeed in the field of wolves. Later, when tapped to run for the 5thDistrict school representative of LAUSD, Rodriguez received millions in backing from Eli Broad and Richard Riordan and their political education advocacy groups. 

I can imagine that these rich and powerful movers and shakers always assured Rodriguez every step of the way that they would have his back. It’s hard to imagine he got into his money laundering situation just by his own amateur lonesome. He must have had some “advice” about how to emerge from the pack as a viable School Board candidate. 

One can’t feeltoosorry for Rodriguez’ current plight because we know that Netflix billionaire Reed Hastings has already ponied up for his legal defense and it is inconceivable that his big moneyed backers haven’t made some other provisions and assurances for him. 

When former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy finally had to give up the ghost for his malfeasance despite a tidal wave of backing from LA’s titans of finance, he didn’t have to sweat where his next meal was coming from. From the generous bosom of Eli Broad, he came, and to that gushing nipple he returned. In exchange for his public exile, Deasy has a guaranteed job and income with Broad or any number of other private entities that will ensure his financial well-being. 

What is disturbing to ponder is the influence of this golden safety net on how our elected representatives make their decisions. If the others on the school board who have vociferously supported the Broad and Riordan education agenda (like current LAUSD President Monica Garcia and Vice President Nick Melvoin) “know” that they also will have the eternal back channel financial support to pursue corporate education goals, it becomes quite literally, a blank check. 

We have seen that the money pouring into Education Reform is limitless. The private billionaire backers who prop up the publications LA SCHOOL REPORT, THE 74 MILLION and astroturf parent groups like SPEAK UP PARENTS are well situated to have the resources to manufacture consensus. I used to think of these organizations as our “Education Fox News,” but it has become more apparent that they are more like the frightening Sinclair News Corporation: these outlets speak with scripted voices from the Broad organization. 

They are all one-way conduits of “information” that use the identical language of billionaire populism to advance their goals. 

These interests need Ref Rodriguez’s vote on the next LAUSD Superintendent. His latest public humiliation puts all his backers in a serious bind. They will remain silent on his predicament and perhaps mildly scold him -- but that can’t excuse him from his obligations to the cause. 

Vote he must and they are probably willing to weather the blizzard of complaints and cat calls that allow Rodriguez to participate. 

But what about, you, Mr. Rodriguez? Is this what youreally want? Here, I will make an appeal to you directly. 

Haven’t your so-called friends done enough damage to you already, sir? At this point, youare the one being exploited. You will be gone soon enough and maybe if you can stand the glare and embarrassment, you will be rewarded with a well-compensated position in the dark, private quarters of their black foundation. 

But, Ref Rodriguez, they have sold your honor and dignity in the bargain you accepted.

 

(Joshua Leibner taught in LAUSD public schools for 20 years. He is a National Board Certified teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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