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Ref Rodriguez: To vote or not to vote.
Ref Rodriguez: To vote or not to vote. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The union representing Los Angeles teachers is calling on school board member Ref Rodriguez to recuse himself from votes on charter schools Tuesday. 

At the board meeting, officials have to decide whether to renew or authorize petitions for 33 charter schools, which are independently run but fall under the oversight of L.A. Unified. Some of the votes could be controversial and close.

A letter from a law firm representing United Teachers Los Angeles asserts that Rodriguez's participation is untenable because he received a $75,000 contribution to his legal defense fund from charter supporter Reed Hastings. 

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(David McNew / For The Times)

A year ago, California officials appeared to be coming down hard on doctors and parents who were reluctant to vaccinate children.

The state had just implemented one of the strictest vaccination laws in the nation. The state medical board was threatening to pull the license of Dr. Robert Sears, a celebrity in the anti-vaccine community.

One vaccine skeptic called the case against Sears “a shot across all the doctors’ bows.”

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(Laura Martinez / HS Insider)

Laura Martinez, a senior at Garfield High School, talks about the challenges of being a first-generation student.

When people ask me about first-generation students, the first thing that comes to mind are the parents of these students, the parents that are not from the United States and didn’t have the opportunity to attend college. Their children would then identify as first generation since they would be the first in their families born in the United States.

Additionally, they would also be the first ones to do everything that their parents weren’t able to pursue when they were teenagers. Oftentimes, these parents might have come to the U.S. without an education and unfortunately didn’t have an opportunity to enroll in school because they probably needed to look for a job.

  • K-12
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A candlelight vigil for the Sutherland Springs shooting.
A candlelight vigil for the Sutherland Springs shooting. (Nick Wagner / Associated Press)

In and around Los Angeles:

  1. A look at the politics behind Ref Rodriguez's decision to remain on the L.A. school board, and his colleagues' request that he take a leave.
  2. High school baseball players saved two people from a burning car Friday.

In California:

  1. Schools across the state are holding math festivals in an effort to convey that math can be accessible and fun.
  2. California's teachers feel more empowered in their schools than those in other states, a new survey found.

Nationwide:

  1. Children were among the dead in a mass shooting at a Texas church.
  2. A federal lawsuit alleges that a Michigan teacher taped the mouth of a student who has cerebral palsy.
  • K-12
  • LAUSD
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Ref Rodriguez
Ref Rodriguez (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

It’s been nearly two months since prosecutors charged L.A. school board member Ref Rodriguez with multiple felonies and misdemeanors, accusing him of political money laundering. At first, as he attended board meetings, his colleagues said little about his legal troubles. But after the charter school network he co-founded recently raised separate questions, about alleged conflicts of interest, his three closest allies on the board publicly asked him to take a leave of absence.

He said no.

Here’s a breakdown of some key relaed issues.

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Supporters of the Alliance College-Ready charter school network rally outside the L.A. Unified School District headquarters in 2015.
Supporters of the Alliance College-Ready charter school network rally outside the L.A. Unified School District headquarters in 2015. (Pamela Hassell / Associated Press)

Los Angeles school district officials plan to recommend at the next school board meeting that 10 charter schools be shut down because they refuse to comply with district rules.

The district confirmed the recommendations Thursday.

Charter school leaders, who say they are standing up against regulations they find onerous, won’t back down and will leave it to board members to decide their schools’ fates Tuesday.

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  • California State University
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(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  1. L.A. school district officials will recommend the closure of 10 charter schools that refuse to comply with district rules.
  2. The school district is informing families about options for health insurance coverage.

In California:

  1. Cal State faculty have protested the pace at which administrators plan to implement major reforms, including eliminating non-credit remedial education. However, a compromise may be in the offing. 
  2. The Natomas Unified School District in Northern California is trying to woo new teachers with bonus pay and free use of Macbooks.

Nationwide:

  1. Three deadly attacks, including the highly publicized one this week, have occurred near New York's Stuyvesant High School. One teacher recalls them all, including the first, when she was a Stuyvesant senior.
  2. Among the House Republicans' proposed tax changes affecting higher education: an end to the tax deduction for student loan interest.
  • Betsy DeVos
  • Higher Education
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  • California State University
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  • For Parents
Ref Rodriguez
Ref Rodriguez (Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  1. Echoes of Ref Rodriguez's L.A. problems can be seen in an audit of PUC's one school outside of California.
  2. LAUSD parents, you have one week left to enter your school choices for next year.

In California:

  1. The state's suspension and expulsion rates are falling, but there is still a significant gap for African American students.
  2. A new poll shows that most Californians give public colleges high marks, but they want more done to keep them affordable.

Nationwide:

  1. A look at the country's only bilingual MFA creative writing program and new programs emerging elsewhere. 
  2. A senator says Betsy DeVos' husband broke his promise to stop donating to political causes.
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L.A. school board member Ref Rodriguez, left, appears with his attorney, Daniel V. Nixon
L.A. school board member Ref Rodriguez, left, appears with his attorney, Daniel V. Nixon (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

When the New York state comptroller’s office recently audited a charter school in Rochester, N.Y., investigators found a number of troubling financial practices, including inadequate oversight.

One issue auditors noted was that the local school contracted out its financial management to the national charter network it was part of — and membership on the Rochester school’s board and the school network’s board overlapped.

Rochester’s PUC Achieve is the only school outside California in the 18-school Partnership to Uplift Communities charter school network cofounded by L.A. school board member Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez and his PUC Schools co-founder Jacqueline Elliot were flagged for being on both of the boards.

  • Higher Education
  • California State University
  • University of California
  • Community Colleges
Students head to class at Glendale Community College.
Students head to class at Glendale Community College. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Most Californians think affordability is a big problem in public higher education, and many say the UC and Cal State systems and the state's community colleges should do more to ensure that all students have affordable housing options, according to an annual statewide survey released Thursday.

The majority of Californians surveyed by the Public Policy Institute of California gave the institutions high marks for quality, but more than three-quarters said they believed that students have to borrow too much to pay for a college degree and that college costs prevent qualified and motivated students from pursuing higher education.

“Many say the public higher education system is going in the wrong direction and needs to change, with concerns being raised about affordability, funding and spending,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the San Francisco-based nonpartisan institute.