Charter School Affiliate Turns up the Heat on L.A. Politicians

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United Parents and Students (UPAS), a spinoff of Green Dot Public Schools, continued to gain steady influence among Los Angeles politicians as the host of its fourth annual day of action.

On Saturday, December 2, the newly-independent nonprofit organized its signature political gathering at L.A. Trade Tech College and themed the event, “Forward LA: A Day for Justice.”

The community-based organization packed its event’s roster with a star line-up of city officials who were on the hot seat to tell the 1,000 youth and parents in attendance exactly where they stood on trending political issues.

UPAS’ political agenda for 2017 included carryovers from previous years such as safe and clean streets, food deserts, homelessness, and affordable housing. New to its platform, though, were issues of growing relevance to the city and the nation that focused on immigrant rights and marijuana regulation.

The lawmakers at the event were as diverse as the topics on which they spoke. Among the guests were LAUSD Board President, Monica Garcia; rookie LAUSD Board Member, Nick Melvoin, City Councilman Jose Huizar and City Councilman Curren Price.

The liveliest speech came from Garcia who lauded Green Dot and UPAS for their civic activism. Namely, for registering over 4,000 parents and students to vote in 2017, up from 2,000 in 2016 and for setting a model of excellence for other district schools to follow. In her speech, Garcia boomed, “You are amazing, you have created more graduations, more jobs, [and] more people coming together to be the best we can be.”

Another impassioned speech came from Councilman Huizar against the White House’s move to scale back immigrant rights. He praised our nation’s diversity and made clear that California would stand up for immigrants. Huizar declared, “We celebrate our diversity, we don’t ban it, we don’t deport it and we sure as hell don’t wall it up.”

Although its political platform may change from year to year, UPAS stands committed to empowering parents and students to improve their school communities and its new independence does not seem to be slowing it down.

Earlier this year, UPAS left the legal umbrella of its parent organization, Green Dot – which runs one of the city’s largest charter school networks – to stand on its own feet.

The political machine that it has built since it began in 2014 continues to add new victories to its belt.

In this year alone, UPAS has doubled its voter registration of parents and youth, won concessions from county agencies to place traffic signs in front of its schools to improve student safety, and expanded its organizing efforts to train schools in Minnesota, Texas, Michigan and Georgia.

UPAS’ successful forays into politics are being watched closely by other charter school networks like Alliance College Ready, Camino Nuevo, Magnolia and KIPP – most of whom were guest delegations at the event – as they look to build their own brand of parent and student unions.