L.A. teachers union calls for embattled ex-president Ref Rodriguez to leave school board

The Los Angeles teachers union on Wednesday called for school board member Ref Rodriguez, who is facing felony charges, to resign from the L.A. Board of Education.

The union said in a statement that Rodriguez did not do enough by announcing Tuesday that he would step down as board president.

"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," said the statement signed by the union's officers. "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," the officers stated. "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."

The union's stand is not particularly surprising.

United Teachers Los Angeles opposed Rodriguez during the election that brought him to the Board of Education in 2015. The union also is concerned that the current, slim board majority will lean increasingly in favor of charter schools. The departure of Rodriguez would subtract a key vote from that bloc.

Advocates of charter schools spent record sums in 2015 and 2017 to help elect a pro-charter board majority. The other major spender, backing opposing candidates in those campaigns, was the teachers union.

Allies and backers of Rodriguez have generally applauded his decision to step down as president, a post he has held only since July. But they've also generally supported — at least publicly — his plans to stay on as a board member.

Some Rodriguez supporters have downplayed the charges against him, filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office last week. Prosecutors allege that he secretly funneled nearly $25,000 of his own money into his campaign through straw donors. Rodriguez legally could have put the money into his campaign directly.

The City Ethics Commission faulted Rodriguez for allegedly trying to hide, from voters and others, the true source of the donations.

howard.blume@latimes.com

Twitter: @howardblume

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