Comic John Oliver pokes holes in charter school oversight. Proponents poke back.

Comic and social commentator John Oliver’s rift on charter schools this weekend earned him a lot of social media accolades and some criticism.

Oliver acknowledged charter successes such as the KIPP schools, which operate in Georgia. But he concentrates on weaknesses in the charter school approval process and the problem with financial mismanagement and outright theft. (See Atlanta Latin Academy.)

He blasts the lack of oversight that enabled an elementary charter school in Philadelphia to operate as a nightclub at night. He is withering about the performance of online charters, citing some of the recent research that we discussed here this week.

Be forewarned, Oliver has a fair amount of comments punctuated by an emphatic obscenity.

Jeanne Allen, CEO of the Center for Education Reform, did not like the routine and wrote an open letter to charter schools today. The center describes itself as “a longtime charter school advocacy organization.”

She wrote:

This weekend the late night British comedian John Oliver parodied charter schools, poking fun at politicians and celebrities who support them, serving up misstatements and lies about their success & drawing from anti-charter sentiment that is all too prevalent today. Highly credible researchers and organizations have dismissed his poor taste as just the rantings of a comedian, as satire, which is “his job.” But tens of thousands that find their employment in the organizations you challenge gloated, tweeted and sent their combined millions of members to view and further promote.

The problem is, it’s no joke what you do every day, and it’s no laughing matter that people who have never experienced bad education think it’s funny to mock those who need it and want it. The response from the teachers union and others who are currently engaged in a WAR on charter schools is nothing short of coronation for John Oliver. In Massachusetts, hundreds of anti-charter forces working to prevent the more than 32,000 students on waiting lists to achieve their dreams cackled over social media all night and day about the parody, trying to intimidate voters who might otherwise want to vote to life their charter cap.

You know what it’s like to be in your community and be criticized for doing the hard work it takes to demonstrate results year after year under a microscope, with higher standards and fewer resources than other public schools. You know what it’s like to teach children who come into your school having been failed for years prior.

Here is the clip causing so much commotion:

 

Reader Comments 0

29 comments
JDinMarietta
JDinMarietta

John Oliver is indeed funny. BUT he's not an American and coming from a country with its own share of flaws his views and opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. Taking advice from a comedian is like taking advice on what type of side to serve with your main course when Jeffrey Dahmer is the chef

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@JDinMarietta


Sir Michael Barber is not an American, either.

So, speaking of funny, it is funny any Americans would listen to Sir Michael’s advice on “choice” and school reform and Common Core, let alone implement the advice.  Funny, indeed.  And Sir Michael is not even a comic.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Charter lovers seem to love charters like Trump lovers love Trump. 

albertinamel
albertinamel

Oliver isn't saying that charter schools can never work. The problem is that in some states, they have very little oversight and are more prone to fraud and grift than any public school district. If your state has good oversight over its charters, count yourself lucky. However, several states in the Midwest and East (including MI) have seen charters shut down abruptly, leaving the public system to catch the falling pieces and try to absorb the stranded students whose education has been completely disrupted. Meanwhile public funds have been diverted from some of the poorest public districts in order to bolster the charters, creating a downward spiral in those districts.


In UT, I have personal experience as a landlord renting space to a charter school that abruptly closed. It's easier to open a charter school in UT than it is to open a nail salon. (After all, you need to meet all sorts of health and safety requirements for a salon and meet hours of accreditation.) Other states, like CA, seem to have a better handle on things and make sure their charters are more regulated.


There are some reputable operators out there. But there are many unscrupulous ones, too, and they donate gobs of money to local politicians to get them to turn a blind eye to the racket they've got going. Not surprisingly, many proponents of charters don't like to work with states like CA who actually oversee their business activities. These bad apples (of which there are many) approach education as a business venture, not a service for the improvement of society. The easier the money (and the more lax the laws) the better. Sadly, for many entrepreneurs opening a charter school, their own profitability is highest priority, with education way down the list.

redweather
redweather

Like so many issues, this one seldom gets beyond the either/or stage of discussion; that's because we can't seem to discuss anything in this country without politicizing it. There's little support for "the common good" thanks to political hacks who have turned the concept into a bogey man, i.e. socialism.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather


Diverse,opposing viewpoints are healthy in a democratic society.Both sides of a debate believe that they are advancing "the common good".

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather @Astropig


Well,I guess that in your little kingdom in academe,you get to define reality inside your four walls,but thank goodness that in the outside world,you hold no more influence than the next bozo.

FlaTony
FlaTony

Sadly, Ms. Allen misses the whole point of his routine. The best satire is built around truth, and Mr. Oliver brings to the forefront some of the absurdities that the reformers would rather ignore.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

Charter schools fail.


The point is, do they fail at higher rates than non-charter schools? If the standard is perfection, we will have no innovation and will continue with the miserable failure we currently have.


NEWS FLASH. Children without adult supervision, living in poverty, and with no academic accountability at home, are probably going to fail wherever they attend school. Until we address the real reason for educational failure, no system will make a big change. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@RoyalDawg There are no magic bullets. Or, if they are, the state government is not telling us.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@RoyalDawg And it looks like, instead of letting traditional schools and students suffer, they would let us in on it.  UNLESS, their goal is to privatize public education!

Astropig
Astropig

My favorite "citizen journalist" , Mike Antonucci, had the best take on this that I have seen. I'll just drop quotes around it and let you soak it in-


"John Oliver might be an expert on charter schools, but I doubt it. He’s certainly not an educator. Since he opines on a vast array of topics it is probable that the sum total of what he knows about charter schools is what he presented in that segment. But since he said exactly what charter school detractors want to hear, he is celebrated by them instead of ignored as a know-nothing.

By the same token, charter school supporters should avoid getting too worked up over Oliver. While he was savaging charter schools, he also ripped into Pitbull, NBC’s Mysteries of Laura, the Olsen twins, the state of Pennsylvania, John Kasich, Papa John’s, Billy Joel, and the state of Nevada. I also think Papa John’s makes nasty pizza, but I don’t lobby for state laws to prevent people from going there."




(I have to disagree with Mike a little bit here-I like 

 Papa John's)


Other than that- Bravo!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig 

Sorry, but Antonucci's "take" on Oliver's piece is in the cognitive demand and pleasure range of "na-nanny -boo boo". But, hey - glad you liked it.


bu22
bu22

@Wascatlady @Astropig What do you mean???  Astropig thought he was insightful and wise despite not liking Papa John's Pizza!!!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian

From my post you could have inferred that Antonucci's quoted comments were juvenile, lacked coherence , depth of thought, and logic. On the other hand you could have inferred that I felt threatened by his rapier like wit, scathing reproach, and masterful reasoning.


As I said "glad you liked it".

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig Funny how when someone criticizes something you like, they are "full of it" but when you agree with them they are "insightful" and "wise."

BKendall
BKendall

As a Charter and an alternative school supporter, I watched John Oliver’s video twice looking to discover where he was wrong. Problem is he nailed the single biggest economic issue for charters, accountability.

Maybe, Mrs. Allen could stay on task, and on tract to enlighten us with a comparison and contrast specifically of John Oliver’s “misstatements and lies”.

 And please not the typical political verbal garbage we are seeing and hearing so much of today. Or like her open letter, which more closely resembles the prior sentence. A scholarly work, the kind you would turn in for a grade in, high school.

Robert Karma
Robert Karma

I lived in the New Orleans area post-Katrina and saw what happens when you allow charter schools to siphon off taxpayers money without strong oversight. Then Governor Bobby Jindal and his administration used charter schools as a way to fund religious schools that taught faith-based dogma rather than evidence-based science. These charter schools failed in their task to properly educate the children they claimed to serve. John Oliver rightly called out the many failures of the charter school program and the rampant abuse of funding by these groups running them. We all want our children to receive a quality education in a safe learning environment. That won't happen unless public and charter schools are held accountable for their actions. New Orleans did have some excellent schools that overcame these post-Katrina challenges like Lusher Charter School and KIPP Academy. They are well-run with competent management, the parents are active with the school, and they are responsive to their community. So it is possible for the system to work but it needs ethical, responsible oversight and the right people committed to making it work for these children and their families. It can't be a partisan vehicle to promote a specific religious worldview using taxpayer money. 

Gladlylearn
Gladlylearn

Incidentally, before Katrina, Lusher Elementary was an excellent public school. Although the New Oleans school system had many failures, there were also a few highly successful schools. Most were located in upper middle class neighborhoods and received strong support from parents, who, for example, raised funds for enrichment programs or special equipment. It wa not a fair system by any means. Low income neighborhoods, lacking the resources of the "better” schools provided few benefits to their students. I know this because my children were in this system in the '70s and early '80s.

MikeN62
MikeN62

I guess APS, Clayton County, and Dekalb County are the poster children for why we should all just shut up and let the education establishment tell us what's best for our kids?  LMAO....

dg417s
dg417s

@MikeN62 DeKalb has some really good schools - and a lot of choice. The problem is that when students leave the neighborhood school, they take the resources with them... and if they cause a problem at the choice school, they get sent back. DeKalb also has some of the highest poverty rates in the western and southern portion of the county - students who don't know if they'll have a home when school lets out, and may not know where their next meal is coming from. That is hardly an issue with the management of the schools and until we are willing to step up and do what is necessary to help these children, we won't see a lot of improvement. Take care of the children first, and the school performance will follow.

DoubleSubject
DoubleSubject

Must charter schools have the word "academy" as part of its name?

Astropig
Astropig

@cuppa


Agree. When Oliver does a rant on APS's cheating scandal,I'll agree that he's funny.