Advocating for what’s right at a time when so much is wrong

What are the legal, ethical and fiscal constraints on schools that want to take activist stances on domestic (and global) political issues? Who better to ask than a panel consisting of an expert on First Amendment issues, an auditor with deep experience in the charter world and a school leader struggling with the consequences of contemporary immigration policy?


Tony Lopez is the Executive Director of Zone 126 and a long time community advocate, nonprofit leader and youth development professional. Tony was the first ED for NYC’s I Have Dream Foundation and led Aspira of New York, the nation’s first Puerto Rican-led youth development and educational advocacy organization in developing 1,000 high school students into leaders at three Beacon community schools and in 30 high schools. Tony has served as a collaborator, thought partner and facilitator to numerous policy makers and elected officials on school reform related to Career and Technical Education, Charter Schools and K-12 educational pipelines. 


Joseph Blatt, CPA, is a senior partner at Loeb & Troper LLP where he provides audit and consulting services to a full spectrum of not-for-profit organizations with a specialization in private and charter schools. Joe is a highly regarded expert with over 30 years of experience in the not for profit industry.  Joe works closely with business managers, heads of schools and trustees in guiding them through a full spectrum of governance issues. He is a member of the NYSSCPA Not for Profit Committee and a frequent speaker on Not for Profit issues. Joe sits on the firm’s Executive Committee and chairs its Business Review Committee.

Laura Abel is Senior Policy Counsel at the Lawyers Alliance for New York where she provides business law representation to nonprofit organizations engaged in advocacy work. She brings to Lawyers Alliance more than a decade of experience representing advocacy nonprofits in First Amendment litigation. Prior to joining Lawyers Alliance in 2013, she was Deputy Director of the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School, Senior Counsel and then Acting Co-Director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, and a Reproductive Freedom Fellow at the ACLU. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1994 and from Harvard College in 1989.

Ricardo Mireles is the founder of Academia Avance, a college preparatory charter public school serving families in LA’s Highland Park since 2005. Academia Avance now serves over 400 students in grades 6-12. The charter was renewed by the Los Angeles County Board of Education in 2010, and again by the State Board of Education in 2015. Mr. Mireles has taught at the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research, and at the Don Bosco Technical Institute.