Comedian John Oliver says charters are corrupt

We have written a great deal about charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, but none of what we’ve written can compare in sheer entertainment value to about 19 minutes of an illustrated monolog on HBO last night by John Oliver. His video has, in less than 24 hours, garnered almost a million views.

After he points out politicians on both sides of the aisle have jumped on the charter school bandwagon, he then takes us from the theoretical benefits of charter schools to the practical: they make a profit, and they occasionally go out of business, leaving kids in a lurch.

Charter schools have been getting a bad rap in recent weeks. The group #BlackLivesMatter issued a statement, with the NAACP and other civil rights groups, calling for a moratorium on charter schools.

The education crises plaguing most of our public school districts are the result of corporate-controlled, state-sanctioned and federally-funded attacks to reverse Brown v. Board of Education, and create a desuetude discrimination and educational apartheid that must be challenged and overthrown. … Budget cuts, standardized tests, and rabid charter expansion places Black students in buildings that are falling apart, creates unhealthy learning environments (physically and emotionally), and robs them of the futures —graduating unprepared for college, career or community. These same students, instead, are subject to increased police violence, disproportionate suspensions and expulsions, and are likely to be pushed out of school all together.

Charter school advocates complain, on occasion, that critics dig up stale information and use that to continue a belabored argument.

But charter schools have come to 42 states, including both Illinois and Maryland, and there is little doubt that the lack of oversight has led to situations in which charter schools are barely accountable, if they’re accountable at all, for the millions or more they spend in tax dollars. Charter operators continue to abuse taxpayer dollars without any transparency.

I can say that forever, but Mr Oliver’s style is a lot more polished, and we’re grateful for the entertainment and allowing us to laugh at what is a corruption of public education on a national scale. He suggests online charter schools, though they may be needed, are even worse when it comes to accountability for the funds they receive than regular charter schools.

“Give a kid a s–ty pizza, and you f–k up their day; treat a kid like a s–ty pizza, and you f–k up their entire life,” he ends the segment.

I am obliged to point out, even in the face of corruption, mismanagement, and poor oversight, which is improving by inches every day when miles of improvement are needed, that parents, probably more than profits, are the primary driving force behind charter schools. Yet, we’re decades into the charter movement, and the public schools haven’t improved as much as charter advocates promised the increased competition would force them to improve. A million kids, many of them black and from low-income neighborhoods, are on waiting lists for select charter schools as their parents demand better schools.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.