First published on Schools Matter on April 23, 2015
“Review of the financial statements and accounting records noted: non-disclosure of related party transactions; failure to maintain required fund reserves; failure to appropriately apply accrual basis of accounting; lack of monitoring of cash receipts and deposits process; lack of documentation for disbursements; lack of control over journal entries, and lack of adequate training for the accounting staff.” — Los Angeles Unified School District, Office of the Inspector General
Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez is arguably as secretive as the Gülen religious cult. Secrecy isn't the only thing the two charter giants have in common. While there's no direct evidence of collaboration, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence connecting these charter conspirators.
Rodriguez's charter empire and Gülenist movement are both funded by Walmart fortune heirs. The LA School Report blog's Vanessa Romo wrote about Rodriguez's corporate charter network on January 20, 2015:
"All got their seed money from the biggest players in education reform — either the Walton Family Foundation or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He [Ref Rodriguez] says all but a handful of PUC schools out-perform the surrounding public schools." [emphasis mine]
"The Walton family, founder of Wal-mart, the worldwide retail giant, has donated millions of dollars to schools considered to be associated with the Gülen community." [emphasis mine]
The common thread is Walmart fortune heiress, Carrie Walton Penner. She is currently the California Charter Schools Association's (CCSA) Board Vice-Chair (term ending 6/30/2017). Her close friend Rodriguez was a CCSA Board member from 2005 to 2009. Her mutual funding of both Rodriguez's lucrative PUC corporate charter network, and the Gülen charter school network (including Magnolia charters) is undisputed.
Another strong piece of evidence is that Magnolia branches of the Gülen charter school network bloomed under Rodriguez's CCSA board tenure. No less than five Magnolia schools were opened during the Rodriguez era:
- 2007 Magnolia Science Academy – 2 Valley (MSA-2)
- 2008 Magnolia Science Academy – 3 Carson (MSA-3)
- 2008 Magnolia Science Academy – 4 Venice (MSA-4)
- 2008 Magnolia Science Academy – 5 (MSA-5)
- 2009 Magnolia Science Academy – 6 Palms (MSA-6)
The proliferation of Gülen charter schools under Rodriguez's CCSA board term might explain why he has remained silent as to the serious charges of malfeasance against those schools. Rodriguez, who claims he wants to see "bad charters shut down," would do well to read Scott M. Folsom's sage words on the acts committed:
"Parental Choice does not give the right to parents to choose to send their kids to a bad school -- whether the school is bad because it does a crummy job of teaching students or managing the public's funds."
The unequivocal support of Los Angeles' Armenian community of Rodriguez's opponent, the Honorable Bennett Kayser, may be the most damning piece of evidence. Magnolia is tightly aligned with the Gülenist Pacifica Institute. In 2011 Armenian groups protested the organization's ties to Turkish groups denying the 1915-1918 Armenian genocide. That Ref Rodriguez and Monica Garcia are closely aligned to genocide deniers should concern voters to no end. Following is a press release announcing an Asbarez.com article discussing Kayser's broad support by Armenians.
Yegparin specifically writes about Bennett's race and what is at stake this Tuesday, May 19th:
"But perhaps the most subtly important LA election is for the school board’s District 5 seat. Bennett Kayser, the incumbent running for reelection placed second, and faces a very strong challenger in the runoff. Kayser’s opponent is supported with serious money from the charter school movement (specifically, the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and its various tentacles), the same people from whom the Turkish Gulen movement has benefitted as it successfully encroaches on LAUSD schools."
"Consider that when all the spending in this race is added up (by the candidates themselves and independent expenditure committees for and against the candidates) Kayser’s opponent comes out 43% ahead in dollar terms! This is very unusual. It is more commonly the incumbent that has the money edge. It speaks to how much Kayser is being targeted."
"We should be assisting him as much as possible. Unfortunately, his district covers areas which are not home to very many Armenians, which speaks to the principled nature of his stance. So that leaves volunteering (making phone calls or walking neighborhoods) and campaign donations, both of which can be done through the Kayser’s website, www.bennett2015.com."
**Click here to read the rest of the article on Asbarez.com**
**Click here to donate to Bennett's campaign**
**Click here to volunteer for Bennett's campaign**