The charter school menagerie is bright and varied, and so too are the people who run it. Take Steve Barr, for example. An intense, 6-foot-3 hybrid of charter school advocate and union-loving Teamster who once led MTV's "Rock the Vote" campaign, Barr's Green Dot Public Schools have been a bright spot in Los Angeles's ailing education system. The program's mostly Hispanic students consistently outperform their counterparts at traditional district schools. Unlike most charter leaders, however, Barr insists that his schools be unionized, and he doesn't think charters "are the answer for urban public education." For Barr, charter schools should serve as "centers of [research and development] for the districts." Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who recently took partial control over the city's schools, is looking favorably on Barr's heretofore stalled proposal to put a number of L.A.'s struggling high schools under Green Dot's tutelage. Barr, with his union-friendly policies and focus on cooperation over competition, is putting charter opponents between a rock and a hard place. For that, we say: Rock on.
"Charter School Activist Gains New Influence in L.A.," By Lesli A. Maxwell, Education Week, November 6, 2006 (subscription required)