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John Oliver Slams Charter Schools And His Critics Totally Miss The Point


John Oliver Slams Charter Schools And His Critics Totally Miss The Point

Jeff Bryant

Sometimes it takes a funnyman to make sense.

Earlier this week, British comedian John Oliver devoted a “Back to School” segment on his HBO program Last Week Tonight to examining the rapidly growing charter school industry and what these schools are doing with our tax dollars.


Mr. Bryant fails to see the most glaringly obvious difference between charter schools and private prisons. That difference is that parents voluntarily choose to send their children to these schools.


That's not the point. Public money should fund public schools, with public oversight and local accountability.

Private schools need to fund themselves, not loot public funds.


Exactly. Also, Paul Ryan is on record wanting to move public funds ( public school funds ) over to charter schools funds. And because Paul Ryan is Paul Ryan, he wants to slash Pell Grants, too.


Yeah, on our tax dollars in the form of subsidies and tax breaks.


Shock Doctrine Capitalism is a DISEASE in search of new bodies to infiltrate!

How about the private armies like those run by Eric Prince? These privatized war adjuncts to the Pentagon command far higher salaries than do ordinary soldiers, nor are they held to account!

How about the private insurers playing judge, jury, and sometimes God in determining who gets care and who does not because these entities are traded on Wall Street and MUST show striking profits.

Add in the private prison industry which does seek new bodies the way hotel chains seek guests.

And then add in the privatization of public schools.

In NO instance is the privately run entity proven to do a better job than its public counterpart.

However, since very well-heeled rapacious interests have a personal interest in obtaining these public assets, they must create narratives, push these narratives at the public, and purchase the politicians necessary for carrying out their wishes.

As is clear in the way the mass media worked as cheerleaders for ILLEGAL wars of aggression with no one (apart from the few with operating consciences, the whistle-blowers) held to account; those who LIE to "talk up" the case for charter schools are removed from the impact of shuttered public schools. They are also not held to account for the social costs of their lust for personal profits.

It's horrifying to watch everything from the sacred to the mundane sold off to the highest bidders. THAT is not a Free Society; and it's high time that so-called "Free Enterprise" be exposed for the massive fraud that it is.

As poster Alan McDonald aptly puts it: Profits are taken in with genuine costs (like that of oil train clean-ups, oil spill clean-ups, loss of wetlands, forests, clean rivers, etc.) externalized.

Paying for corporate malfeasance and wrong-doing is NOT a wise plan.

The Shock Doctrine proponents are the 21st century robber-barons and their interest is in taking it all for themselves. The rest is P.R., smoke, mirrors, bribes (legal and otherwise), and facilitated by LOTS of graft and corruption in high places.

If TPP and TIPP go into effect, there will be no impediment to the privateers laying claim to it all when not destroying the commons, stealing the public's assets, or polluting the natural resources that human (and other) lives depend upon.


Charter schools are private schools and private for-profit schools are a scam.
All recent analysis shows that charter schools perform worse then public schools. Which has to do with oversight.

Just take Trump University for example.
Laureate International University which Bill Clinton received $17.6 million from in five years as their spokesman.
Both Laureate and Trump University are currently under investigation by multiple agencies.


Mr. Bryant doesn't fail anything.. you, Koch Brothers' "think" tank paid troll!

Your argument is a perfect example of George Lakoff's depiction of the Conservative based on the strict father family model.

The simplest translation of it is: "I got mine, phuck you!"

So these parents YOU say who choose to send their kids to these schools do so because:

A. Religious schools which used to require payment from parents who chose that route over public ed. HAD TO PAY for it.

However, now, the clout of the Catholic Church along with its Protestant Fundamentalists have found a way to make ALL taxpayers fund "their choice."

B. The money that is being siphoned off into these charter schools is being strip-mined from public schools. As planned, that is, by design, the lack of funding then is used to characterize those schools hit hardest (by these fiscal cuts) as failures... so the privateers can sweep up the assets in keeping with Wall Street's Hostile Takeover protocol.

C. These charter schools are not obliged to take in Black children, or children with learning disabilities so it's a new version of Jim Crow and segregation.

D. Many of these charter schools are fly-by-night operations run by those self-serving right wing clowns who think personal profit is blessed by God's will... while they screw their neighbors and neighbors' children.

YOU are arguing for all of the above: that is, the interests of a FEW at the expense of the many.

It's a right wing shock jock American guy's version of Margaret Thatcher's assertion: "There is no society!"

Only the individual entrepreneur/exploitation expert gets to weigh in... under the guise of what YOU (and other right wing pro-business sharks) term "choice."


There is NOTHING that Paul Ryan would not steal from poor families, single mothers, or working stiffs ... to please his money masters. He is to Christianity what Monsanto is to food.


We can blame Ayn Rand for Paul Ryan's distorted view of the world.


When it comes to being a selfish self serving asshole Paul Ryan is a self made man.


Can I have a amen!


Let charter schools be private schools, then, not supported by the government.


There are 2 problems with the "Fix the public schools" argument for charters.

  1. Public schools are required to take all kids. Charter schools, by definition, only get kids with parents who are engaged in their children's education. So, right there, you are starting with a much better base of children to work with and the trying to compare their results to the public schools.
  2. Charter schools "manage out" problem kids. So, if a kid does not do the work or is disruptive, he is pushed out (or "encouraged out" of the school). This arguably is a good thing (since one disruptive kid can ruin the educational experience for the other 30 people in his class), but is a HUGE advantage over what the public schools are allowed to do.

Now, even given these 2 major structural advantages (better initial population and the ability to winnow down any problematic students), charters have only a slightly better track record than local public schools.

The closest examples we have here in NY of schools which have similar advantages to charters would be our magnet high schools (where you must take a test to get in). Those schools, however, have astronomically better rates of graduation, college readiness, etc than the local high schools, which is what you should expect when you start with such heavy structural advantages.

There are other solutions for "improving" public schools, but strip mining out the best students and funding, for institutions that are not living up to that promise is not one of them.


One important thing to note here is that the education funds that are coming to the Charter Schools in the form of Federal Grants are coming to them via "Block Grants", which are first given to the states and then passed on to the Charters. The problem with this model is that if the Charters themselves were the direct recipients of those funds, they would be obligated to meet rigorous compliance standards, including an annual Federal "Single Audit" by an independent auditor or risk losing those funds to another competitor. However, with a Block Grant, the level of oversight is practically non-existent. Yes, on paper the charter would still need to pass a Federal Single Audit, but if they fail their audit, the state will still provide them with the funds regardless. And if the state fails to provide adequate oversight, there is zero risk that the Federal Regulators will stop the money from coming as long as Congress continues to send the cash their way.

And so here's the problem. Since charter schools are technically non-profit entities who receive federal funds in the form of block grants from the state, there is little to no state or federal oversight into how those funds are spent. By farming out the management of the charters to for-profit companies, they are subjected to NO oversight, and are not even required to complete a "single audit".

The state doesn't care because the grant money will be coming from the Feds whether they spend the money correctly or not. The Feds don't care because they take their orders from Congress, and as long as the political winds are blowing in a certain direction, they'll keep getting their money. The Member of Congress doesn't care because he receives campaign contributions from the very companies who are "managing" the charter schools in his district.

Wait a second... Wasn't this a conversation about children?


You are missing my point. While there is a real need to get uncaring parents to start taking part in their kids education, the fact is that charters, by their nature, only get kids whose parents do care. They get kids whose parents went out of their way to find this other school to enroll their child in. This should result if far superior outcomes since they are getting a much better caliber of student family coming in. Their results have not been nearly good enough given this head start that they get in student selection (I know many go by lottery, but even in the lottery, you only have children there whose parents cared enough to put them in the lottery in the first place)

As far as "kicking out" bad kids, Public schools have an incredibly high bar to remove unruly students. There is a state requirement to educate the child and the existing structures (at least in NYC where i live) make it almost impossible to expel a student for anything short of armed assault. I've been in classrooms where the children would leave and run down the hall screaming periodically and the principal was powerless to do anything other than suspend the student for a short period. Another school nearby had known drug dealers in the class, but the principal could not remove them.

Charters are more flexible (which I agree is a good thing) to remove students who are unruly or not following their rules (e.g. they can kick you out for not following the strict dress code).

But, again, if they are only taking better students and they are able to remove the unruly students, why are their results not FAR superior to public schools which are operating under a heavier burden.

I think that was the point of the criticism by Oliver. Leaving aside whether we should privatize or not, the performance of these schools has been atrocious.


Rather than charter schools, public schools should be brought up to proper standards. As said many times create a crisis then privatize.


This is all about money. Politicians run on money. If you vote them out another that runs on money will take their place. And so on ad infinitem. As long as corporations rule the government this is what we get.

Jerry Cook


I'm with Souixrose on this. The imperial "we" is bullshit!

Jerry Cook


Spot on. But let's not forget that the public schools were one of the great equalizers of society in which children of most social classes gained exposure to each other. The charter school movement is actually an elitist plan to undermine democracy by destroying the educators unions. Why are teachers unions essential to quality education? Because without their protection our schools would be run by the rabble of privilege and incompetence represented by teach for America and other fascist groups in it for the money and themselves. The other great equalizer, of course, was the military draft. Make compulsory service two years in the military, the peace corps, or vista and see what that changes.