Tag Archives: Ref Rodriguez

Spending in race for three LAUSD board seats reaches nearly $4.6 million


District 5 candidate Ref Rodriguez, left, and incumbent Bennett Kayser at the El Sereno Neighborhood Council’s candidates forum. (Lawrence K. Ho, / Los Angeles Times)

Total spending in the battle for three spots on the Los Angeles Board of Education has increased sharply since the March primary, reaching nearly $4.6 million, as interest groups vie to influence the nation’s second-largest school system.

The top spender is a group supporting charter schools, which has poured in more than $2 million. Next are committees controlled by the teachers union and its allies, which have spent more than $1 million. These groups are backing opposing candidates in two races, but have settled on the same candidate in a third.

These organizations aren’t the only special interests involved. A relatively new political action committee, allied with the charter group, has joined the big money ranks. And a union representing non-teaching employees also could have an effect.

The results of Tuesday’s election could shift the ideological balance of the seven-member board, affecting the choice of who would take the helm as the next superintendent of schools. Current schools chief Ramon C. Cortines, 82, agreed to serve another year as a search gets underway for a successor; he returned from retirement last October after John Deasy resigned under pressure.

The board also faces key budget decisions and must develop a new teacher evaluation system with the union.

The election also could affect district policy related to charters, which are independently managed and free from some restrictions that govern traditional public schools. Charters are not obligated to hire union employees.

L.A. has more students enrolled in charter schools than any district in the nation.

The future of charters are at the heart of the most heavily contested race. One-term incumbent Bennett Kayser typically resists creating new charters or renewing existing ones. His opponent is Ref Rodriguez, co-founder of one of the largest local charter-school organizations.

Kayser represents District 5, which encompasses neighborhoods north and east of downtown and the cities of southeast L.A. County.

California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates has put $1.8 million into unseating Kayser. More than half a million dollars has gone into negative advertising against him.

“We’re expecting a low turnout, possibly as low as 8%,” said Gary Borden, executive director of the charter group. “But the folks who went to the polls for Ref in the primary care deeply about his campaign and we’re optimistic that they’ll make sure to vote for him again in the runoff.”

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L.A. Unified releases audit of charter school with ties to candidate.


Ref Rodriguez
L.A. Unified Board of Education candidate Ref Rodriguez. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

An audit of a charter school with ties to a Board of Education candidate found fault with the school’s financial operations and the way it maintained employee records and other documents.

The audit was released Wednesday by the Los Angeles Unified School District in response to a Public Records Act request by The Times and other media outlets.

The school, Lakeview Charter Academy, is part of PUC Schools, which was co-founded by board candidate Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez currently serves on the board of directors and in a part-time capacity as treasurer of the corporate arm of the organization.

The audit did not reveal problems that could result in the Lake View Terrace school being shut down. But it found some issues that L.A. Unified wants remedied.

“We appreciated the opportunity to work with the district and are grateful for the inputs that have helped us improve our practices, even though we disagree with some of the points that were made,” said Jacqueline Elliot, chief executive of PUC schools.

The Times reported Tuesday that the audit’s public release had been withheld at the request of a school board member. District sources said the delay came at the behest of school board member Monica Garcia, a political ally of Rodriguez.

L.A. Unified General Counsel David Holmquist confirmed that a board member requested the delay, but would not specify which one.

Garcia did not respond to requests for comment through her staff and email.

In an interview, Holmquist said that under the California Public Records Act, the audit was a public document that would have to be released if requested. The district decided to release it after confirming that PUC had received the final version of the report, he said.

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L.A. Unified delays release of audit on school with ties to candidate


A charter school with ties to L.A. school board candidate Ref Rodriguez is the subject of an audit withheld from public release. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

An audit of a charter school co-founded by a Board of Education candidate has been withheld from public release at the request of a school board member, L.A. Unified district officials have confirmed.

Two well-placed district sources said that the release of the audit was delayed at the request of school board member Monica Garcia, a political ally of candidate Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez works for the charter organization.

L.A. Unified School District general counsel David Holmquist confirmed that a board member requested the delay, but would not specify which one.

Garcia did not respond to attempts to reach her through her staff and email.

Rodriguez would not comment until he had reviewed the document, his campaign manager said.

Insiders who read the audit said it was not overly critical of the school and that the charter’s management agreed with many findings. The audit faults the charter for failing to consistently follow some required business practices, they said.

Lakeview Charter Academy is among the local campuses run by PUC Schools, which have a generally solid reputation as academically sound and popular with parents.

Senior district officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said a board member wanted the audit handled in private because it could result in litigation. It’s permissible under state law to keep discussions about potential litigation confidential.

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