May 13, 2009
Steve Barr, labeled "The Instigator" by last week's New Yorker, is living up to his new sobriquet. He's launched (or instigated, if you will) a Parent Revolution to give voice to frustrated parents, put pressure on the LA Unified School District, and counterbalance the power of that city's teacher union. Seems Barr thinks putting the P back into PTA is futile. The pledge is simple: if more than half of a poor-performing school's parents sign up for the Revolution, Green Dot guarantees an excellent campus within 3 years. It will fulfill this promise with some equally simple leverage: if LAUSD does not clean up the school or let Green Dot take it over and transform it, Green Dot will open a ring of small charter schools around the school--and quickly drain it of students and funds. A newly revamped Parents Union gathers petition signatures to make such a threat credible. Mary Najera, one of the organizers, explains: "This is a legitimate threat to the school district. And this is how we have to play to be heard. This is going to steamroll." With an unlikely cast of supporters, including the Service Employees International Union, The Broad Foundation, and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, this move is gutsy and innovative. It also just might work.
"Parents are urged to demand more from L.A. schools," by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2009