Revolution: Improve schools — or else

Green Dot’s Steve Barr is trying to launch a Parent Revolution in Los Angeles, urging parents to demand better schools or else.  Or else they’ll start a charter school with the help of Bright Star Schools and the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, successful charter operators. From the Los Angeles Times:

If more than half of the parents at a school sign up, Barr’s organizers say they will guarantee an excellent campus within three years. They call it the Parent Revolution.

With parents, they predict, they’ll have the clout to pressure the Los Angeles Unified School District to improve schools. They’ll also have petitions, which Barr and his allies will keep at the ready, to start charter schools. If the district doesn’t deliver, targeted neighborhoods could be flooded with charters, which aren’t run by the school district. L.A. Unified would lose enrollment, and the funding would go to the charters instead of to the district.

Organizer Ben Austin, a lawyer and political consultant, “characterized a proper school as one that is safe, orderly and small, where the principal can personally and rapidly fire ineffective teachers, where nearly all dollars get to the classroom and where every child is progressing toward college.”

On Fox and Hounds Daily, Austin writes: “We are done with bake sales. We are done playing by their rules.”

In addition to Green Dot, funding for the Parent Revolution groups has come from philanthropist Eli Broad, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Service Employees International Union.

About Joanne


  1. Margo/Mom says:


  2. About damned time.

  3. Hmm, Joanne kinda forgot to mention the part where he illegally bribed an LAUSD school board member for information.

  4. Margo/Mom says:

    Mike–I don’t know anything about the organizers, or their motives. What I do know is that the power of parents has been the sleeping giant for some time. Public schools have pretty much left them alone–preferring a few likeable brownie bakers to building a cohesive unit of parents with a voice (that they listen to). The “choice” movement has been eager to woo parents (or has been actually built of parents who get tired of not being listened to). Parents seem to like that.

  5. When is this coming to the SF bay area? I’m ready for it.

  6. Andy Freeman says:

    > Hmm, Joanne kinda forgot to mention the part where he illegally bribed an LAUSD school board member for information.

    One might reasonably ask whether the information should have been unavailable. And no, embarassment isn’t grounds for privacy when public funds are involved.

    LAUSD receives public funds. As such, nearly all information that it has should be public. If they want private information outside those bounds, they’re free to fund their activities without public money.

  7. How about this for parental ‘revolution”? Parents acting like adults, and parents. Most of the parents I meet have an adolescent mentality at best, and want to be their child’s friend or peer, not their parent. That is the single biggest factor in why public schools are dysfunctional. Curriculum, teaching, administration are important, but have marginal impact, compared with HOW PARENTS RAISE THEIR CHILDREN AND WHAT VALUES THEY INCULCATE IN THEIR CHILDREN. Green Dot, Shmeen Dot, public school, charter, or private school…every school. Parents have to have equal accountability with the other partners of their child’s education.

  8. LisaK,

    You may be right; however, that’s sort of like arguing “we require licenses to drive and practice professions, but anyone can decide to be a parent.”

    While it’s true, there is little we can do about forcing parents to be better parents. On the other hand, the significance of good teaching on the educational progress is incredibly important, and it is a factor that can be moderated.

    I wish parents were better parents, but some aren’t. However, I’ve got the kid for eight hours a day, and I am going to do everything I can to develop literacy, critical thinking, discipline, organization, focus, etc.

    Will some kids enable their kids beyond my influence? Of course, but I’m still going to try.

  9. Margo/Mom says:


    Clearly your experience is different than mine. But I wonder. Are teachers better parents than other people, or is the brain drain that you attribute to parenting universal? If teachers, on the whole, do better, I wonder exactly what it is in their learning, training or experience that leads them to such exceptionality? Does teaching somehow select out those with better parenting inclinations? And since most people end up being a parent at some point, are you indicting our entire society as being adolescent, or again, is there something particular to parenting that seems to bring that out?

    My experience is that amidst the many frustrations to be found in teaching, teachers are desparate to justify their inability to change the world, or their students, in the ways that they had hoped to, or believed possible. Parents, families and neighborhoods make awfully handy scapegoats when you are deeply disappointed with what you are/are not able to accomplish. I have put two children through public school, almost all the way to the end. I am more present and more well known to my kids teachers and principal than perhaps is average–along with a whole slew of other folks in the district. Not a one has ever come close enough to my family to have any idea how I raise my children or the values that I inculcate. I recall the year, very early on in my son’s career, when I realized that it didn’t matter how many conferences I attended, brownies I baked, phone calls I made or returned, there were adults in my son’s school who were going to see my parenting as deficient because my son was having difficulties in school. And to their mind, this could only be caused by defective parenting.

    They would not say (or rather SHOUT) as you did. They just made gentle suggestions about “things that I could try at home,” along with growing refusal to consider any changes within school that might be helpful. Defining any and all problems (especially dysfunctions within the school) as being caused by an entity outside with whom you have very limited contact is very convenient. It means that you don’t have to do anything differently. You don’t have to change your stellar estimation of your abilities (you would still be changing the world–if not for these crummy defective students that you have), or look at anything that you are doing, or not doing.

    BTW–the need for scapegoats is a hallmark of a dysfunctional system.

    I really believe that this parent vs teacher impasse is something that we have to get over. I know way too many frustrated parents and I read so many frustrated teachers. How is this helping?

  10. [Barr] “started a citywide group called the Los Angeles Parents Union, an activist alternative to the Parent-Teacher Association, in the hope of mobilizing foot soldiers for Green Dot’s escalating war against the district. He even put a school-board member on his payroll – ‘a mole,’ Barr said — to report back on closed meetings.”

    I’m not up on California law but it seems like it would be illegal, perhaps even a felony, to bankroll a “mole” to report back on closed meetings.

    I DO know that here in Texas a felony automatically costs a teacher their certificate.

  11. Margo/Mom says:

    Mike: in my state it is illegal for the school board to hold closed meetings with regard to anything besides personnel or individuatl student matters. Not sure, but I suspect it would be a violation of ethics at the very least for a board member to accept payment for reporting out on confidential information (the only kind that can legally be dealt with in closed meetings). Raises all kinds of questions. But–I’m not up on Green Dot, Barr, or much that goes on in California. I am pretty familiar waith parents however. Schools don’t really do themselves any favors by ignoring parents.

  12. Ageed on the parent issue Margo

  13. Diana Senechal says:

    There is something disturbing about this story: the funding (coming from Broad and others) and the deceptive tactics. From the LA Times:

    “Barr’s parent organization gave Villaraigosa’s campaign a grass-roots visual that it otherwise would have lacked. And his paid staffers hit the right rhetorical notes for Villaraigosa, while identifying themselves to reporters and officials only as parents.”

    I don’t like that. Paid staffers hitting the mayor’s talking points and identifying themselves only as parents?

  14. I will be interested to see how this develops.

  15. Steve Barr’s “mole” was neither secret nor illegal: David Tokofsky openly worked as a consultant for Green Dot while serving on the Los Angeles school board. He recused himself from decisions involving Green Dot. Tokofsky, a former high school teacher, recently left the board.

    It is illegal for the school board to hold closed meetings, except to discuss personnel and legal issues. California law is quite strict on this: If three board members meet for coffee and talk a little business, they’re in violation of the Brown Act. In my newspaper days, we frequently went after boards, councils and commissions for using pretexts to evade the law.

  16. Andy Freeman says:

    Don’t confuse MiT with facts. He thinks that voucher proponents are evil and so are guilty of anything that someone can accuse them of, whether or not there’s any basis.

    I’m surprised that he hasn’t accused them of child abuse. After all, they are guilty of trying to take kids out of public school.

  17. Andy,

    Where exactly did I hate on vouchers in this thread?

    Joanne, unfortunately Barr didn’t specify what kind of meeting his “mole” (his words) reported back to him on, but if it was a legal closed meeting, then he and his “consultant” have broken the law.

  18. Oh, give it up Mike. Your misrepresentation has been revealed. Barr didn’t break the law since there hasn’t been a conviction nor, it appears, has an indictment been pursued.

    The only thing Barr’s guilty of, in the Court of Mike, is running a bunch of charter schools that make the district schools look lousy by comparison.

    I know, I know, it ought to be a hanging offense but it isn’t. Get used to it.

  19. Allen, he used the word “mole” and he admitted to paying for info on closed meeting.

    Sounds like a crime to me.

  20. Andy Freeman says:

    > Where exactly did I hate on vouchers in this thread?

    I never said that he did. I wrote “[MiT] thinks that voucher proponents are evil and so are guilty of anything that someone can accuse them of, whether or not there’s any basis.”

    We’re talking about public money. MiT thinks that it’s perfectly acceptable to do back-room deals and that anyone who tries to find out what’s going on is wrong, especially if they’re a voucher proponent.

    Now we find out that everything is above board. Which raises the question – did MiT know that when he raise the charge? If he didn’t know, did he care whether the charge was possibly wrong?

    Based on his past behavior, I suspect not. This isn’t the first time that he’s made charges that turned out to be baseless. And he has a history of damning voucher proponents for minor infractions and defending public school advocates who have committed atrocities.

    We’ve yet to find out how bad a public school has to be before MiT will say that it should be shut down. He won’t even offer a hypothetical.

  21. Back room deals? Dude, what the heck are you talking about?

    As for back room deals, I’m not the one with a “mole” on the school board supplying me with info from closed meetings.

    And just what atrocities are you talking about? Are you going to bring up that stupid scenario from The Simpsons again that you’ve tried to bring up time and time again?

  22. From transparent misrepresentation to transparent rationalization. That’s movement but not progress.

    Like I already wrote, the only thing Barr is guilty of is serial competition.

    The cad just continues to outrage convention by opening and running decent schools in areas that’ve been written off by LAUSD thereby making clear the ineptitude and lack of concern of the LAUSD board and LAUSD professionals.