Due Process

It’s a sad day for education, politics, and Latinos in Los Angeles.

Last week, the LA Times broke a story that Dr. Ref Rodriguez is facing three felony counts and 25 misdemeanors for campaign money laundering.

Dr. Rodriguez is accused of giving $24,000 to his own campaign in the 2015 school board election. That money was then used to reimburse 25 of his donors – mostly low-income friends and family members including a janitor, a tutor, and a parent organizer who each received $1,100.

Basically, a bunch of people who don’t have that kind of cash to donate to a political race.

These things are illegal. You’re not allowed to reimburse people for political contributions, you can’t lie about the number of donors or dollar amounts they give to your campaign, and you can’t sign legal documents knowing that they include false information.

It’s hard to fathom Dr. Rodriguez’s motive to go this route. He could’ve simply gifted the cash directly to his campaign.

Maybe he felt guilty for taking campaign donations from low-income people? Maybe his ego got the best of him and he did it to appear to have a wider net of grassroots support? Maybe some #Pendejx advised him to bust this mamada?

Whether he did it out of ignorance or a calculated movida, it was short-sighted.

This situation is particularly difficult for those of us involved in the fight to improve public education in L.A. Unified. A district that, for decades, systemically provided a high-quality education to a limited number of students.

In LAUSD, students get creamed through the use of test scores, teacher recommendations, placement exams, race, class, and zip codes.

These metrics determine where the most effective teachers, administrators, and principals work. They also determine where the best education programs are made available to kids: magnets, academic decathlon, AP classes, arts, music, etc.

Dr. Rodriguez’s district has some schools that offer a lot to its students and some that offer very little. It stretches from Los Feliz to South Gate.

Dr. Rodriguez and his team are fighting to change that. But, it’s hard not to feel betrayed by his actions during the elections.

Full disclosure, I have love and respect for Dr. Rodriguez and his team. I supported his campaign by raising and giving money. (No. I was not reimbursed for my contributions.)

Ever since he won, I’ve been working closely with his office because I believe that he gives a shit about students and educators in poor communities.

But, there’s another side to this story that really grinds my gears.

UTLA, the teachers union, is going hard after Dr. Rodriguez – the first openly gay Latino man to be elected to the Board and to be voted Board President.

Don’t get me wrong, I expect nothing less from them cause they have a history of targeting people of color, on the School Board, who disagree with them.

They’re also hypocritical about who they choose to defend whenever people are accused of committing crimes.

For a union that takes pride in defending due process, they sure were quick to demand that Dr. Rodriguez resigns from the school board – clamoring that he should be “held accountable” – even though he hasn’t been found guilty of any of the charges.

This is ironic because UTLA remained silent when a previous Board President, Dr. Richard Vladovic, was accused of sexually harassing a Latina woman and making homophobic comments in front of an openly gay man, both LAUSD employees. Dr. Vladovic is a White man.

So, why do they believe that they should be the judge and jury in this case against Dr. Rodriguez?

It’s like cops that kill Black and Brown people because they determine that we are guilty just for living.

UTLA has defended – or chosen to remain silent whenever- teachers are accused of verbally, emotionally, physically, or sexually abusing kids.

They even fought to ensure that a convicted child molester keep collecting his $4,000-a-month pension.

That’s not to mention that they defend some shitty educators who aren’t teaching our kids anything, which in my opinion should also be a crime. But, that’s another story.

Anyone who tells you that this whole debacle, “Is just politics”, is in denial.

Anyone who tells you that low student-achievement is, “Not the teachers union’s fault”, is full of shit.

Inequity is written into contracts and teachers unions negotiate those contracts.

Lastly, anyone who tells you that this is a fight between humble teachers unions vs. the evil billionaires doesn’t know how to count. Unions spend millions of dollars on elections too.

In fact, this election-cycle cost $5 million. That was money spent for and against Dr. Rodriguez during the board race in 2015.

Get this straight, this is not about making excuses for someone’s fuck ups!

Dr. Rodriguez’s missteps have consequences that affect so much more than his political career.

People of color get publicly crucified and we receive harsh sentences for breaking the law – the same laws that White people break. Though they get away with zero consequences or less severe punishments.

Latino candidates who run in future races will be judged by this scandal.

These mistakes are bad for kids because we now have to work harder to push the system and continue to change the status quo.

More importantly, this is bad for democracy and public trust.


By: @grand.supreme.chapin

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