Now that Ref Rodriguez, the charter founder who was convicted of money laundering, has resigned, the Los Angeles school board has a 3-3 tie.

While Rodriguez was under indictment and awaiting trial, the board hired a non-educator venture capitalist as Superintendent.

Now the board must either select a replacement or call a special election in Rodriguez’s district.

The three-year scandal that has embroiled the Los Angeles Unified school board concluded anticlimactically this week when besieged District 5 board member Ref Rodriguez tendered his resignation. The bow-out followed a Monday court appearance in which Ref pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy and three misdemeanors connected to his laundering $24,000 of his own cash during his successful 2015 election campaign.

It ended an ethically challenged 10 months in which Ref’s legal bills were paid by his lone legal-defense fund donor – billionaire charter school enthusiast and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. The patronage had kept alive LAUSD’s slim, 4-3 pro-charter school board majority as it doggedly ticked off a dream list of California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) wins. Gut “district required language” for charter petitions? Check. Deny CCSA bête noire Ken Bramlett a contract renewal as inspector general? Check. Hire non-educator venture capitalist Austin Beutner as a disruption-prone superintendent? Check.

The suddenly even-split LAUSD board now has 60 days to either appoint a successor or to follow recent board precedent by letting District 5 voters decide in a special election.

One group paying close attention will be L.A. teachers, whose union on Tuesday submitted its “last, best and final offer” in contract talks that it says have again ground to a deadlock. “Anti-union, pro-privatization ideologues are currently running the school district but are setting us up for failure,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl charged in a statement. The district has 48 hours to respond to the LBFO.

Meanwhile one of the state’s major charter scandals received new attention, following the court settlement “stemming from 2017’s catastrophic failure of Tri-Valley Learning Corporation (TVLC). The undisclosed payment to bond trustee UMB Bank, by municipal bond law firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, was for its part in brokering a 2012 bond issue for the Livermore-based charter management organization.

This latest fallout covers only a fraction of the $67 million in tax-exempt, facilities-funding bonds at the center of a bankruptcy that affected over 1,200 students and shuttered four TVLC schools.

The closures led to a devastating June, 2017 audit by the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, which forwarded multiple allegations of possible fraud and misappropriation of assets against Tri-Valley and its former CEO, Bill Batchelor, to the Alameda County DA. It also resulted in state Assembly calls for closing regulatory loopholes that have allowed millions of dollars to be converted into the private real estate holdings of limited liability companies and charter management organizations.

“There is no authority, body [or] entity that I know of that [a charter management organization] has to answer other than to a self-selected board of directors,” testified Livermore Unified superintendent Kelly Bowers at 2017 Education Committee hearings.

All legislative efforts to hold charters accountable and make them transparent have been vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. Two years ago, he vetoed legislation that would have made charters subject to open records laws and conflict of interest laws.

To learn more about the unregulated squalor in the charter sector in California, read Carol Burris’s “Charters and Consequences.”