Diverting Attention

During the primary campaign, Ref Rodriguez’s supporters accused UTLA of “using ‘racial undertones’” because they used the candidate’s given name, Refugio, in a mailer. Fast forward five months and the new Board member himself referred to his full name several times in his swearing in ceremony on Tuesday. Nevermind what was said or done during the campaign, Rodriguez wants you to pay attention to the present and ignore the contradictions.

Unfortunately, these contradictions continued to play out in real time as Rodriguez’s speech betrayed its theme of “unity.” As is the case with all LAUSD public meetings, translation services were provided for those who are more comfortable with languages other than English. Still, the new Board member found it necessary to provide a large portion of his speech in Spanish. No translation was provided for the English speakers in the audience and the speaker himself did not indicate if he was translating his previous comments or making new ones. No matter its stated goal, this speech was not a unifying experience.

Of course, the whole idea of this Board member speaking of unity was preposterous. While I personally found Bennett Kayser too timid to be the defender of public education that the LAUSD requires, he was certainly not the racist or slumlord that Rodriguez’s supporters made him out to be. There is no circumstance where their attack based on his Parkinson's diagnosis could be excused. While Rodriguez can technically claim that he had no direct involvement in these ads, he certainly did not actively work to disavow them. In fact, only George McKenna insisted that his name be removed from this material. Rodriguez owes his new job to the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and the methods they used to get him elected.

This brings us to the elephant in the room. Like a conman diverting the attention of his mark, Rodriguez spoke a lot about how we all need to work together to improve the LAUSD, but in reality his Board seat was not purchased so that public education can be improved. Despite his denials, Ref Rodriguez is the “charter guy” and the CCSA spent over $2 million to hasten the process of privatizing education.