Ref Rodriguez’s Problem is Our Education Problem Too

LOS ANGELES

EDUCATION POLITICS--In the never-ending saga of LAUSD absurdity, last week, my wife and I received a robo- call from Superintendent Michelle King informing us that a music teacher who was not a District employee may have contaminated recorders with semen and given them to students. Any parent concerned that their child might have been affected was instructed to call their office. 

Parents should be very concerned, but not about a few recorders. Disgusting as this incident is, it represents a distraction from the true horror of LAUSD and its effect on our kids. That honor belongs to Ref Rodriguez’s School Board race and subsequent election, as emblematic of the way our public schools have been bought and sold by corrupt “reformers.” 

There’s little need to belabor Rodriguez’s crimes or his fate. He really is Dead Man Walking at this point.  Whether he does or doesn’t get jail time, should concern us less than the Big Money Operators who put him in his position.

Even as I write, those Operators—namely Eli Broad and his Charter Movement-- are figuring out how to best handle Rodriguez’s situation, and plan for his successor. Replacing Rodriguez with another Broad-school clone is crucial to their ongoing charterization of LAUSD.

Progressive Democrats can no longer pretend that the Democrats who support (and are supported by) billionaire Ed Reform are anything but rapacious destructors of the very definition of public education. These groups are inherently privatizers and anti-union. They may desperately seek to distance themselves from Republican uber-villains like Betsy Devos, but they support and endorse policy that are championed by all Republicans. And for the same reasons. [Hint: it’s not about effective pedagogy.] 

LA School Boards’ current President, Monica Garcia, who has been a champion of all of Eli Broad’s education policies and has sought to advance them throughout her tenure on the board, is not a Progressive Democrat. Nick Melvoin, who received millions of dollars from the charter industry to unseat Steve Zimmer from the School Board, including a cool million from Republican former mayor Richard Riordan, of course has nothing bad to say about his other major benefactor, Eli Broad. Both Melvoin and Broad have used an expressed disdain for Betsy Devos as a smokescreen to cover their strong support of her anti-union, privatization policies.

Every “Democrat” is going to come out against Trump/DeVos social policies that obviously hurt immigrant, minority and LGBT students.  Such a stance shows no more profile of courage than coming out against air pollution.  The conversation that has to occur is about how Education Reform policies and support of the Charter Movement hurts those very populations as it undercuts the financial support of public schools.

This is a very polarizing conversation that the Democrats have been having in Economic policies where more well-to-do Democrats have largely benefited from the areas where Democrats have joined forces with Republicans. This is exactly the same split that will happen in Education where the politically well-connected and economically stable Democrats are on the same page for Education Policy (with the exception of vouchers—and by God, now that is starting to alter too).

If you were to believe Ref Rodriguez, Nick Melvoin and Monica Garcia, you would think that Broad and the Charter Movement were the vanguard of Progressive politics fighting the Man. Eli Broad is the People’s Billionaire but somehow not like the other People’s Billionaire occupying the White House.

But the commonalities are all too clear in education “reform.” Rodriguez did not do his campaign shenanigans on his own accord. He had direction. He’s had direction every step of the way from people who know how to use money to its utmost advantage. These are the same people who set up all those absurd “grassroot” groups that are funded by billionaires. Look at their names: “Speak Up Parents!” and “LA Students for Change.”  Could the Russians have done better if they decided to get involved with local school board politics?

The LA TIMES doesn’t even bother putting up a disclaimer saying that Broad finances their education reporting even as it publishes an Op-Ed by Peter Cunningham of the Broad-funded Education Post, defending Rodriguez as merely guilty of a “rookie mistake”.

An out-of-control urban legend can be created from a crazy semen-infested musical recorder, but the real story is the millions and millions and millions of dollars poured into  Charter organizations by professional financer-abusers who know precisely how to game the system and shape public opinion for their own profit.

Ref Rodriguez is a patsy. He will be gone soon enough. The time for true Progressive Democrats to call out the next Ref Rodriguez is right now. The campaign issue for who replaces Rodriguez in District 5 needs to be who is giving the big bucks to whom. The Venn Diagram of Republican policies Vs. the Progressive Left have to be highlighted. It is not enough to dismissively say you are against Betsy DeVos—the machinations of DeVos that include her sponsorship of education publications LA SCHOOL REPORT and THE 74 MILLION who back these Reform candidates need to be highlighted too.

Eli Broad and his Charter brand need to be made as toxic as a music teacher who abused his power and authority. Broad needs to feel the same public shame and scorn for how he operates. Rodriguez, Melvoin and Garcia are Broad’s beneficiaries and operate on his behalf.

Don’t cry for Rodriguez. I have no doubt the powers that created him and put him in office will more than amply reward him after he is forced from his position.  The same loving, moneyed bosom that provided for disgraced former superintendent John Deasy will rescue and compensate Rodriguez for his service as well.

We just can’t let the next Ref Rodriguez back on the board with the same political backing.

Oh--one more robo-call.

Last week, we received instructions from our elementary school for the Halloween festivities. Among the obvious dangerous items the school is forbidding, it also said that kids are not allowed to dress up as clowns. Seriously.

That’s because the really scary ones hold positions of power. 

(Joshua Leibner taught in LAUSD public schools for 20 years. He is a National Board Certified teacher.)

-cw

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