Charter school exec targets Echo Park & Silver Lake

Steve Barr/Photo by Poptech

Charter school founder Steve Barr and L.A. Unified have teamed up to open academies within the school district that will feature “new approaches to training teachers and new ways of instruction made possible by technology,” reports the L.A. Now. The details have yet to be worked out but Barr, founder of Green Dot Schools and a resident of Silver Lake, told the times he wants to focus on a few areas of the city, including some neighborhoods close to home:

In Los Angeles, Barr said he would focus initially on three areas: Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park, Fairfax and Venice. All have high concentrations of middle-class students, a departure from Green Dot, which runs schools in low-income neighborhoods.

A Silver Lake resident with two small children, Barr cited highly regarded Ivanhoe Elementary as a local asset that could be built upon. “Ivanhoe is better than any charter school I’ve ever seen,” said Barr. “This is about seeding some of that success. I want my kids to go through LAUSD from kindergarten through 12th grade.”

What does Barr, who founded Green Dot in 1999 and currently sits on its board of directors, have in mind? Barr cited the Los Angeles River School in Glassell Park “as having attributes he hopes to emulate,” according to L.A. Now. The new schools would be operated under Barr’s new initiative, Future Is Now Schools.


  1. yes, please. we need better schools.

  2. Great – love when people get involved to do something rather than just complaining. Kudos Mr. Barr.

  3. The Los Angeles river school Mr. Barr would like to emulate is a public (non-charter) school. If we have models of public schools that work why should the district expand Charters and not public pilot schools?


  5. Thank you for raising the issue.

    Charter schools are not the ONLY means of school improvement.
    Many traditional public schools are making improvements despite the budget cuts, layoffs, furlough days, and poor perception of teachers and public education in general.

    Keep in mind one reason Ivanhoe does so well is the education levels of the parents and guardians. According to census data, the area Ivanhoe draws from has one of the highest concentrations of master’s and Ph.D’s in the region. This has a tremendous effect on involement and expectations.

    As an educator I’m for reform that benefits students first and foremost, be it charter, pilot, partnership, or whatever the buzzword is at the moment. As long as education remains “public.” There is no magic bullet, so to speak, except old fashioned hard work and a citizenry that DEMANDS quality education!

    • Headline: The best schools are the ones where rich kids go.

    • Agree with El Maestro, but would add that it’s not just parents. Many of us non-parents support Friends of Ivanhoe to keep the standards up. Mr. Barr’s idea of using Ivanhoe as a starter seed area from which to expend the excellence is a good one – however it happens if it benefits the kids it benefits us all. Nearby Franklin Elem has seen notable gains over the last few years and Micheltorena is staring to pull in the type of community/parent involvement that is arguably a prerequisite for improving a school. Let’s hope this all keeps up and continues to expand!

  6. echo park echo park echo park

  7. We have one of the best hidden little gems right here in Echo Park, Elysian Heights Elementary.

    It is a GREAT school!

    Parents in Echo Park or Downtown who are trying to decide on where to send your kids should take a tour…meet with the principal…talk with parents who have kids already attending. I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

    This is our community! Support your local school! 🙂

  8. Ivanhoe is great not because the parents are educated, but because the parents have money. They are encouraged to donate hundreds of dollars to help fund all the programs that have been cut from every public school. If more highly educated parents with money in Echo Park chose to support their public schools, instead of sending their kids to private or charters, then our public schools could have what Ivanhoe has. Unfortunately, not every family that attends our Echo Park public schools has money to invest in it. We are left to raise funds through $1 bake sales and other small scale fundraisers because that is all our families can afford. We have amazing teachers and volunteers teaching free after school enrichment classes to make up for what LAUSD has cut out of our budget. I am so happy that I am supporting our public school. Elysian Heights Rocks!

    • My child attends Ivanhoe, we don’t have a ton of money. All of our money goes into living expenses, slicing a bit off for occasional fun. We give what we can and that is what most people do. Yes, there are some that can give more than others, but your generalization has a slight bit of envy for no reason. Ivanhoe had a head start as well, Franklin is just a bit behind Ivanhoe. Your school will be there too. Just give it time and keep going.

  9. Elysian Heights Elementary is great! The issue (in my eyes) for kids after is … where do they go for GREAT middle/high schools in EP? 😐

    • For middle school go to Nightingale Middle School. We have a Grammy winner teaching orchestra, high school math credit for algebra and geometry. Last year 98% of our geometry students scored advanced on the CST, highest in the district, including high schools. We have a students run la, and award winning MESA program, just to name a few. This place is a hidden gem.

  10. yea this year I donate 675.00 to my local school for a field trip. and I will doit again. ”if I can”

  11. Ask Mr. Barr what happened to the libraries in the schools he took over? Ask Mr. Barr why his teachers don’t have the same rights as public schools teachers? Yes, I know, he has public funds — but he runs his corporation for a profit. His schools do not serve kids who aren’t able to be in the mainstream. They send special educ. and other kids elsewhere. He wants this area because he wants the money. Please don’t be fooled.

    I agree — support Elysian Heights Elementary and Micheltorena Elementary. These are wonderful PUBLIC schools that aren’t making anyone a profit. Don’t be fooled into thinking charters are better. The research proves otherwise.

    • What schools are you referring to? My husband teaches for a Green Dot charter and the school he is at serves ALL students. They absolutely do not send “special educ. and other kids” elsewhere. Also, will you clarify what you mean by “other kids”?
      The statement that charters are a corporation and making a profit is very misleading. People that work/teach for Green Dot do get paid just like LAUSD employees. They are producing some great results although it is not a “fix-all”, Green Dot is working for the greater good.

    • Thanks Joan, you’re right on the money (pun intended). I often see very thoughtless comments on the Eastsider when it comes to the politics of private vs public. I don’t have kids so I don’t have a real working knowledge of the current state of public schools but I recognize the transparent cheerleading rhetoric of the “private sector can do a better job than the public sector” baloney that mostly gets people to react rather than think. I realize that this is a community blog with limited resources but I do wish that there’d be some thoughtful reaction to stories like this as well as the one last week about the Los Feliz post office having to partner with real estate developers. Come on people, this is your community, your culture, your country!

    • Green dot is a non-profit.

      • skr, marijuana dispensaries are “nonprofits” as well, but that hasn’t stopped operators of those businesses from raking in the bucks. (Quite an analogy, huh?)

        • Charter schools look so good because their numbers are fake, once a child is not doing well in a Charter school, that kid gets kicked out and forced to go back to a public school.
          I want to see what a charter school can do without kicking out or having to accepting a “Bad” student. Their numbers would look more like a public schools.

          • seriously, that is the most retarded thing I have read in awhile. you don’t have to send your kid to a charter, you don’t have to like charters (on principal OR in theory), but to just spread lies is ridiculous.

          • Michael, if you doubt what Joe G. is claiming, I suggest that you speak to one of the counselors at a non-charter public high school such as Belmont or Franklin. I’m nearly 100% sure that they will verify, at least anecdotally, that they have encountered students who weren’t cutting it at the charter – for one reason or another – and were “encouraged to leave.” (I’ve encountered a handful of such students myself.)

            Oh, and before you toss around the word “retarded” as a pejorative, make sure you know the difference between “principal” and “principle,” the latter spelling being the correct choice for the context in which you wrote it.

    • Ms. Kramer’s assertion of Green Dot’s abject treatment of special needs children is 100% collaborated by the charter corporations own documentation. Never mind the right-wing lies by Sonia, here is Green Dot’s SPED Manual online for all to see:


      Within it are instructions to reject any IEPs that might cut into the 501C3’s bottom line. From a parent with a special needs child who is an advocate for ALL students, not a revenue hungry charter school executive:

      “Most egregious – see pdf pg 31 (GD handbk pg 25), item 3 which states “return student back to LAUSD” BEFORE a team decision is made in an IEP as required by IDEA.”

      Of course, we’ve known for years http://j.mp/O1XmRC that the charter-voucher industry discriminates, but to have it documented in Green Dot’s own procedural manuals is incontestable.

      It grieves me to know that public dollars flow into an organization that has a corporate policy of discrimination against special needs children. Steve Barr made millions at Green Dot (he averaged $250K a year when is was there). 501c3 non-profit is merely a tax status, it doesn’t confer anything else. The Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute, and the Manhattan Institute are all 501c3 “Non-Profits,” too. Charter cheerleaders keep insisting their little corporations are public, but never mention that their boards are unelected, private affairs.

      Of course, the lucrative Green Dot Corporation’s failings are limited to exacerbating segregation and marginalizing special needs children. Their results are simply terrible.


      Green Dot’s portfolio include three schools with the lowest 100 APIs in Los Angeles County. They also feature five schools with the lowest 35 average SAT scores in the County. Their so-called “turn around” project is a case in point. Fall 2010 Locke Senior High Admissions into the California State University system: 88% were NOT proficient in mathematics and an astonishing 98% were NOT proficient in English.

      Despite mountains of evidence of their underperforming public schools, Green Dot and profiteers Steve Barr are regarded as “rock stars.” Why? Ask Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Pearson, and all the other corporate vultures circling the charter school trough.

  12. These schools will be allowed to draw students from other areas, and because of Prop 39 will be allowed to displace local children who will have to be bused to public schools elsewhere. This means some local children will not be able to attend their local schools.

    This is a terrible idea, unless you’re rich or uninformed.

  13. Just to clarify. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. There is an open and transparent lottery that one goes through to attend. They do not displace local students.
    Also, I’m not sure teachers, nor any public or private employees need all the same rights as lausd teachers. Take tenure as one example. Tenure actually means something at the university level and is difficult to achieve and requires a lot of extra curricular work. Lausd teachers achieve tenure in three years with near unanimous success.

    Let’s support people who are interested in investing in their communities.

    • If there is an open and transparent lottery, then that means all kids will have to go through a lottery, which means that any local kid can be denied admission and must be bussed elsewhere? How do you guarantee that this will not displace local students?

  14. @Enough: I agree, support people who are interested in investing in their communities — like those of us who are enrolling are kids in our neighborhood schools. Do your research. The fact that charter schools are no better than regular public schools has been proven repeatedly. It all comes down to resources and whether or not the parents in the school are willing to invest — not just their money but also their time.

    Also, the lottery tends to work better for some than for others. http://www.laweekly.com/2011-10-13/news/charter-schools-getting-your-child-on-the-list/.
    This issue has been addressed by some members of the LAUSD board, but most likely has not yet been rectified.

  15. The problem – as I see it – is that UTLA has done nothing to “clean house” and get rid of underperforming, burned-out, or simply incompetent teachers in LAUSD. The teacher’s union also refused to address the issue of teacher evaluation until the district, and national politics, forced their hand.

    I understand that a union is supposed to be an advocate for its members, but when we’re talking about childrens’ educations, the macho union rhetoric (“you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us”) just doesn’t fly. So now the powers that be have found a way to break the union, and it’s working.

    It seems to me that charter schools rely on mostly young, pliable teachers, the vast majority of whom will burn out and leave within five years. Most human beings want a personal life, and when you have a five-pound pile of essays that you have to take home and grade on evenings and weekends – because your charter school mandates that you spend an hour after school in meetings three days a week – you begin to look for greener pastures. — 14-year LAUSD teacher

    • You poor thing, how did you survive on 6 hr long work days with 3 months off a year and an inability to get fired…did you ever calculate your effective hourly rate?

      Of all things, if you’re whining about quality of life as a teacher, you’re going to be VERY disappointed with whatever alternative career direction you choose.

      You’re answering your own questions here. You are incentivized to spend less time since your results have no correlation with your pay. Why do you think so many teachers use Scantron even when it’s not always the best measure of comprehension. The teachers unions have done our children a great disservice.

      Quite simply, if the teachers could be fired for being bad, then we could at least blame the administration, but as it stands now, the union has all of the power and is the only real winner, while the children, the taxpayers, the community, and the education quality all suffer.

      • Fauxican, I’m not sure how well you read what I wrote; I think you took a cursory glance at my comment and then let loose with your rant. I’m not defending the teachers’ union, as you seem to imply, and I would love to see teachers fired “for being bad,” as long as we come to an agreement on how to evaluate teachers. I, for one, don’t mind being evaluated based on my students’ test scores, at least partially.

        Now, to your point about quality of life as a teacher: If our job were so easy and working conditions were so enviable, then why (as is widely reported) do roughly 50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years?

      • I hate that the myth that has been perpetuated that school teachers get 3 easy, work-free months off and only work 6 hours a day. NOT TRUE.

      • I don’t know if it is too late to post but this myth drives me nuts! I am a teacher and work 7:30am-3:30pm typically. On average, I am on my feet for 90% of that. If I am lucky I get about 10 minutes to eat lunch in peace. But since our school has no cafeteria, I have students in my room who want help, or just want to talk. I also bring several hours of work home per week. I work above 40 hours on a weekly basis. Also, I get 9 weeks per year of unemployment, not vacation. Vacations tend to be paid, but my summers are not. So I can either save during the rest of the year or find a temporary job. Oh and out of those 9 weeks, I have a week of unpaid training, and will spend probably 2-3 working on curriculum (also unpaid). I love my job but I’m certainly not doing it because it’s easy. Get your facts straight fauxican before sharing your ignorance with everyone else.

  16. I’d love to send my kids to Elysian Heights– but as long as the guys across the street shoot their guns and/or get shot at every other month, I’m not putting my kids there. How much longer until bullets fly into the playground?

    • I believe Elysian Heights has gotten A LOT better … look at crimemapping or the LATimes database. Of course it could always be better… but it’s not unsafe, especially during the day.

      • No, honestly, it’s not better. Do you ever drive by that area? Seriously directly across the EP Ave from the school there are vatos and little pissant 14 year olds out there CLEARLY carrying weapons in the back of their waistbands.

        I cannot believe that the cops can’t do something about it. If they’re not there, they’re standing in the street half way up Fargo in front of the big peach house, or up on the stairs. They always have guns, just grab them for some bs open container ticket like you do to the hipster kids on sunset, while you ignore the bums.

        Part of me wonders if the cops are kind of afraid of dealing with these guys since I would not put it past them to shoot at a uniformed officer.

        Bottom line, I agree, my kids will not go to that school while even the administration is afraid to call the authorities about activities happening across the street. All it will take is for some rival gang to drive by and shoot at these guys for the playground children to get caught in the crossfire

        • And how is another charter school coming into Echo Park going to change that situation?

        • Of course the cops are afraid! Probably lazy, too. I live nearby in Highland Park, patrolled by the same Northeast LAPD division that patrols EP, and recently reported a break-in next door as it was occuring. A single cop showed up, looked at the house with the window shattered and the door ajar and said, “We don’t have resources for this kind of stuff. Besides, I’m not about to jump a fence to check it out.” Meanwhile, the offenders are thirty feet away, in the act of breaking the law. So lazy! It seems that they only care about the paycheck and that they’re forgetting about the civil service aspect of their job. I say cops should only be allowed to serve in the area in which they live, just like city councilmembers. Maybe that would ensure a sincere interest in performing the civic duty for which they are compensated since there would be a more direct and visible benefit , that is, improving their own backyard.

    • Yeah, I think about our school’s kids getting caught in the crossfire too. Honestly though, I worry more about kids getting hit in the cross walk by people driving through the stop sign. (I have personally see this a few times!)

  17. Hey all you people that are excited about charters – you should know, that at this time, Citizens of the World Silverlake/Echo Park still has openings in 2nd and 3rd grade for this FALL. No lottery! Hurry up and get in while you can.

  18. RegularJosephine

    Why is everyone talking about elementary schools and not one person has mentioned middle school? I don’t see people raving about King middle school (unless you count the magnet). No one here is championing Irving. Barr mentions wanting to create a quality education beyond the elementary schools we have in the area (Franklin, Dahlia Heights, Elysian, Clifford etc.).
    You can snipe all you want but I’m interested because what I’ve seen in the area so far makes me nervous for my kids.

  19. Charter schools are allowed to draw students from outside of the neighborhood. A recent judgement on Prop 39 by Judge Green will allow charters to displace neighborhood children from traditional public schools where colocations exist. This means that neighborhood children will be bused to schools in other areas of LA while kids in charter schools take their place. This is not right.

    This is “separate but equal” at its worst.

  20. Almost every person, pro-public or pro-charter, mentions the idea that a school does not improve without the support of parents and community. Citizens of the World is a charter school that has forced themselves into a co-location situation with Micheltorena Elementary, despite the efforts of Micheltorena and its parents and community to block this. The whole notion of community/parent involvement does not benefit when you have a divided community as a result of a divided school. Charters sound great on paper, but in reality they have acted like bullies. Reading the ruling about how they can displace local schools is even more disruptive to the neighborhood. Please do not support this process!!

  21. Green Dot charter schools founder repays group $50,866
    The nonprofit’s tax return shows that Steve Barr repaid the organization after an internal review found that expenses he had charged were undocumented or unjustified.

    • Nice to see some people willing to look beyond the corporate media hype and check out Barr’s real record. Because Barr, darling of every right-wing think tank and plutocrats like Eli Broad, had long been the face of the charter industry, Green Dot decided it would have been a bad idea to pursue charges. The ensuing fact finding about how charter school executives play fast and loose with public funds with absolutely no oversight would have been a public relations nightmare for the Walton Family Foundation funded California Charter Schools Association. So they let Barr go after he paid back the misappropriated funds — no public audit or neutral party would get to see their books.

      Remember, being a well heeled charter school executive means never having to say you’re sorry. Barr is joined by numerous charter school scoundrels in Los Angeles. Like when Mike Piscal skipped town after millions went missing at ICEF Charter Corporation. Or Crescendo Charter Corporate cheating mastermind John Allen recently won a settlement of public funds. Or ICEF’s Fernando Pullum settlements for $1.4 million. Or CWC being co-founded by kickback expert Kristean Dragon, whose participation in the The Wonder of Reading scandal was a major story on NBC4.

      Of course, Los Angeles isn’t the only place where countless charter school scandals occur. There’s so many, an entire website is devoted to them:


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