In the words of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Steve Barr seems to have “cracked the code.” In 1999 Barr took his experience on the frontlines of campaign politics and founded Green Dot Public Schools, an organization devoted to increasing access to quality secondary education in distressed urban areas. He opened his first charter school in Lennox, a depressed area not far from LAX airport.
Since 2000, Green Dot has transformed the Los Angeles educational landscape by creating 17 high-performing charter high schools, and their numbers speak for themselves: schools that saw 75% of incoming freshmen drop out have been transformed into institutions that send nearly 80% of students to college. In 2008, Green Dot took over Alain LeRoy Locke High School in Watts, an incredible story that was documented in The New Yorker last May.
Barr’s efforts to enlarge and liven democratic processes did not start with Green Dot, however. He co-founded Rock the Vote in 1990, and also led efforts to pass the Motor Voter Bill, signed into law in 1994 by President Clinton. He hosted Clinton’s National Service Inaugural event, which led to the creation of Americorps, and has served as a Democratic Party finance chair.