Ref Rodriguez wins costly District 5 school board race

Charter school co-founder Ref Rodriguez won 54% of the vote | Courtesy Ref Rodriguez campaign

Charter school co-founder Ref Rodriguez won 54% of the vote | Courtesy Ref Rodriguez campaign

Ref Rodriguez beat out incumbent Bennett Kayser in the District 5 school board race after charter school groups and unions spent more than $3 million battling to influence voters in the district that includes Eastside schools.

The unofficial results show that Rodriguez, who co-founded a charter school operator, won 53.5% of the more than 23,000 votes, according to the City Clerk.

“This is a historic victory, as Los Angeles embraces positive change for our schools,” Rodriguez said on his campaign’s Facebook page. “This was a community effort and is a community victory.”

But Rodriguez’ victory did not come without a large amount of financial support from charter school organizations that wanted to oust Kayser, a Silver Lake resident who had frequently opposed the expansion of charters in the district.

According to the L.A. Times, charters school groups poured more than $2.4 million in the campaign in support of Rodriguez. The teachers’ union, meanwhile, spent $1 million to back Kayser.

The stakes were high in the often tense campaign that flooded voters mail boxes with mailers that featured some controversial claims and heated exchanges.

LA Schools Report notes that the charter schools’ victory in District 5 was offset by a loss in the District 4 school board race. In that contest, Scott Schmerelson, who was supported by the teachers’ union, defeated incumbent Tamar Galatzan.

Eastside Schools Directory & Maps

Los Feliz Charter School for The Arts | K-6

The Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts (LFCSA) is a non-profit, public elementary school with an emphasis in project-based learning through the arts. More about Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts.
Clifford Street Elementary: K- 6

The school board has approved a staff plan to convert Clifford Street Elementary into a math and technology magnet in the 2015-16 school year. More About Clifford

preschoolmap-001Preschools Map
elementarymap-001Elementary Schools Map
highschools-001Middle & High Schools Map

Get your school listed in our directory


  1. It’s amazing how much campaign junk mail came through my mailbox for this race……..straight into the dumpster it went…….such a waste of resources.

  2. Nearly $150 spent per vote.

  3. ugh. welp, as usual $ wins the day.

    this is a bad sign of what’s to come for Los Angeles… good-bye quality public education. hello privatized nightmare.

    • So you are saying it’s going to get worse than it is? I doubt that.

      • Yes, that’s what I’m saying.

        Giving tax money meant for public education to random, disparate “charter” schools, run by various corporate interests, is not how to fix the public school system.

        It will only benefit the few, at the expense of the many.

        It gives away our tax dollars to private interests to mismanage / steal / profit off of.

        So while rich kids will still have many opportunities, the vast majority of LA kids will be stuck in the current system — while Ref and the other corporate stooges cheerlead for charter schools that only a few can actually utilize.

        Their goal is to destroy the public education system that has made our country great — and replacing it with schools brought to you by Walmart, with no educational standards or oversight from elected school board officials.

        The history of charter schools, is following the history of conservative governing philosophy — starve the government of funds, until it becomes completely ineffective so you can kill it and no one will care. Especially if what the government does benefits poor and working people.

        There are many places in our economy where capitalism and earning a profit off your business makes sense. Educating our children IS NOT one of these places.

        Society profits when we invest in our children / future.

        Why are we letting corporations profit off our educational tax dollars?

        • Juan our photo

          Fair enough points, however I see the charter school upswing as a direct way to usurp the enormous overreaching power of the teacher’s union. How many stories have we heard of horrible teachers not being fired for being deficient, ineffective and sometime darn-right criminal. The LAUSD teacher who is currently sitting in jail for feeding his sperm to children on cookies is still ALSO collecting is big fat pension and all of his big fat benefits.
          The teacher’s union has refused to reform itself and therefore the system has found a way to skirt around the PROBLEM. It may not be perfect but nothing is these days. People have spoken and decided to elect what they see as the lesser of two evils… like it or not charter schools have a better success rate and are able to do it for less specifically without the teacher’s union getting in the way.

          California spends the second most on education in the US and is consistently amongst the worst performers.

          • Juan our photo

            …and if you want to talk about squandering tax dollars and cronieism, there is NO WAY you can defend the teachers union who buy their political seats to rubber stamp all the juicy benefits, salaries and tenure rules. Had the unions been reasonable, this backlash may have not happened. But the epitome of greed that you say you so despise IS the teacher’s union.

          • I’m not defending the current system as being perfect.

            And agreed, the Teacher’s Union has protected many teachers without any cause. That needs to be addressed, and reform is needed to remove bad teachers.

            BUT — unions are not all evil. And most teachers are great and deserve a level of job security and protection.

            Moving teachers to charter schools will only remove protections, while still not creating any real district wide reform.

            Again, I believe the charter movement is a purposeful distraction by monied interests to ruin public education, and replace it with a money-making, corporate driven alternative, that will provide students with lower quality education and no means by which the community can demand answers.

            Making the unions the boogie man, is EXACTLY what the corporate interests want.

          • Serious question: By success rate are you referring to standardized test scores or some other measure of success? If another measure, what is this claim based on?

      • Nothing could be worse.

  4. This is unfortunate.

    • Let’s just straight up say it: expansion of charter schools leads to an increase of racial and socio-economic segregation. If your child attends a NELA public school, you know this to be true.

      The charter schools that serve mostly middle-class, mostly white families tend to have a curriculum that is more developmentally appropriate, more project-based, more pedagogically progressive, etc. The charter schools that serve lower income communities are basically run like military schools: a content based, drill and kill curriculum within a more punitive and rigid system – not developmentally appropriate.

      From the edweek article:
      “In some communities, charter schools have a higher concentration of minority students than traditional public schools. . . . In others, charter schools serve as a vehicle for “white flight” . . . School segregation increases in both cases — in the charter schools students attend and in the traditional public schools they would have attended (Institute on Race and Poverty, 2008). This outcome can be offset only if the choice program has a specific goal to increase diversity.”

    • Great article! Thanks for posting it. Just look at the long list of lawsuits.

  5. Rodriguez ran a dirty dirty campaign. People are what they do.

  6. I’m convinced that that whole Voteria crap that is supposedly giving someone $25,000 just for voting was part of efforts by charter school backers to coerce District 5 Latino residents to vote for Ref Rodriguez. Fernando Guerra, from Loyola Marymount Center for the Study of Los Angeles, is a HUGE supporter of Voteria and has publicly stated that it could be used to get Latinos to the voting polls. He has also dismissed the need for critically educating these voters on the issues and candidates. He knew that Latinos would probably vote Rodriguez and charter schools for all the wrong reasons, which would help deliver a win to Rodriguez. Guerra is also on the record stating his support for charter schools. Interestingly, also, Rodriguez was a lecturer at Loyola Marymount. This whole thing is so fishy.

  7. How many of you have ever taught in LAUSD? Without the unions making sure teachers have rights, are paid SOMEWHAT decent salaries, etc, NOBODY will want to be a teacher. It is an exhausting job, getting harder and harder every year and the pay is minuscule for the amount of hours put in. We have a huge crisis on our hands in the next ten years. As older teachers retire, young, educated people will not want to work so hard for so little without some promise of a good pension and protection.

    • As the child of a teacher I think you are correct, in fact I would support substantial raises for educators all around. But there still should be some reform regarding tenure and getting rid of poor teachers (and not just based on standardized testing).

    • Juan our photo

      The greedy unions will never reform themselves. It happened in Detroit, it happened with the grocery clerk’s union a few years back, now it’s the teacher’s union turn…

  8. Sadly, these comments are completely wrong. Most charter schools in LAUSD inner city neighborhoods serve nearly 100% minority and nearly 100% low-income students. Charter schools have been the single biggest factor in pushing for reform and better schooling in LAUSD. LAUSD needs to embrace and learn from charters to make general schools better.

  9. I’m afraid that charter schools will do to education what “for profit” hospitals did to health care.

  10. Stereotyping is risky. I work for a nonprofit charter school whose teachers are unionized, There’s not a corporation in sight, and many, many at-risk kids in LA’s most economically underserved neighborhoods are getting a better education because of what we’re doing. I sleep just fine at night.

  11. Students won and lost at the same time. The winners are those that want school choice and the freedom to choose. That means competition. Competition means you want to be the best to get students to come to your school. Competition is good. Those that get into those good charter and magnet schools win. They win BIG time.

    Now the losers. The losers are those that charters and maget schools will not accept. Those include students with disabilities and students with other challenges. The losers are the throw away kids that no one wants. Those are the ones that will be left at LAUSD public schools.

    Bennett Kayser represented all kids. Dr. Ref doesn’t. I strongly support school choice. But because not all kids are able or welcome at charter and/or magnet schools, the losers are those kids that will be left behind at bad schools with the worse teachers. Those kids are the BIGGEST losers.

    I can only hope that Dr Ref will represent all kids. But history has proven that charters and/magnets are not accepting or take all kids. I can see another lawsuit coming because the throw away kids will not have equal and same education as other kids not in LAUSD public schools.

    The biggest losers are those students with challenges. Bennett represented them. Sadly, people don’t see or understand that.

  12. Here’s the deal:
    Parents who care about the future if their child (rich it poor) WANT their kids in a charter and work with the teachers and admin. Charter parents understand it takes a village. There’s a ton of LAUSD Schools where parents are M.I.A. And guess who becomes the surrogate parent to many? Teachers. Good teachers are acting more and more as parents. Literally making sure they are fed, do their homework, drive them home after events. Yes, Charter schools are great, but the real problem with most inner city schools is the lack of parental responsibility. There’s a reason a high majority of teachers QUIT after 5 years. It is just too much for so little pay and so little support. Yes, sure there are terrific inner city charters, but what about the massive amounts of inner city schools whose parents cannot be found come parent/teacher conference time? I honestly do not think most people understand how serious this issue is. The good parents get their kids into charters and who is left with the masses of other kids in schools where there isn’t even a clean nor safe bathroom? Teachers….. and the union has their back because noone else does.

    • Teachers don’t quit because lack of parental responsibility. They quit because they work in an oppressive system. It is a system that punishes, shames and gives no support. They are constantly given new mandates without good traiining, if any. If they are lucky, they work in a school that sees itself as a community that understands the need to work together and make changes at a grass roots level. There are lots of us (parents in LAUSD Title I schools) who contribute time and effort in our schools and work with our children.

      The system’s strategy is to pit teachers and parents against one another – sucking us into the paradigm of blame and shame so that we are distracted by the real issues of poverty, inequality, and trauma.

      • This is a really astute comment about the strategy of pitting parents and teachers against each other. Another tactic is to make every effort to demonize the teachers’ union and provide starvation funding for public education so that charters are made out to be the saviors of “our kids”.

  13. a charter school teacher makes 45k a year. they work 8hr day in the class and an additional 5-10 every week so they can grade and plan, and at the request of the principal non-paid staff development on saturdays. so a school year is 180 days plus the 10-12 extra non-paid days, so that’s about 25 bucks an hour, after taxes your looking at 16-18 an hour, oh and there benefits suck. I know a kid who taught at a charter school out of ucla, chem. major. said for some reason he always wanted to teach, but after a year, said he was done. the pay could not support his rent etc etc.

    He left to take a job at private pharm. company making 100k with paid over-time.

    1/2 of charter school teachers are there from teach for america. they stay two years just to pay off their school loans then leave. the turn-over rate at charter schools is off the chart.

    i’m not saying lausd is great, because it isn’t, but if those teachers aren’t getting paid a decent wage why would anyone want to teach, and trust me. it takes someone very special to teach. i bet good money, 1 or 2 people reading this can survive 1 week in a classroom.
    at the very minimum, lausd will give a teacher a decent wage to start and great benefits.

    my keyboard sucks…sorry for the small case type

  14. “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large…” – Thomas Jefferson

    “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
    (Gospel of Matthew 7:15, King James Version)

  15. Teachervet gets it. Unless you have taught in a large public school, you really don’t get it. I love kids and I loved the kids in the poorest of neighborhoods where I taught, but teaching is just a very tough job and good teachers get worn down. I don’t know what the answer is it how to fix it, but I left teaching in public schools. The money was very low and the hours were nonstop.

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *