Jackson Browne is a commercially successful and critically acclaimed musician. (When he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen did the honors.) He is also a longtime activist on causes ranging from Tibetan independence to opposing nuclear power. And now he has added school board member to his résumé. In November, Browne, 62, joined the board of the Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF), a high-performing network of publicly funded charter schools in South Central Los Angeles. With 15 campuses and 4,600 students, ICEF’s schools are among the best in the city; 100% of its graduating seniors get into college and 91% are still enrolled three years later. This is no fairy-tale operation, however. The school made news this fall when fiscal problems prompted management changes, and just this week ICEF announced a new $10.5 million infusion of funds from individuals and foundations.
But the money issues haven’t stopped Browne from describing ICEF’s founder, Mike Piscal, as an incredible example of rolling up your sleeves to solve a social problem. I spoke with the Hall of Famer turned school board member about his sympathy for parents who opt out of traditional public schools, why he never went to college and what qualifies him to help bring education reform to inner-city students.