Watch: John Oliver's Brutally Accurate Charter School Takedown
Since it's "Back to School" season, John Oliver is investigating the often mismananged national education trend known as charter schools. Millions of American children will attend a charter school this fall, which have been praised by politicians ranging from Mitt Romney to Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump.
"Charter schools unite both sides of the aisle more quickly than when a wedding DJ throws on 'Hey Ya,'" John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, pointed out Sunday. "'Oh look at nana dancing we can never let her know what this song is about."
"Charters are basically public schools that are taxpayer funded but privately run," Oliver explained. "The first ones opened 25 years ago as places to experiment with new educational approaches and since then they've exploded there are now over 6,700 charter schools educating almost 3 million students and some have celebrity backers, like Puff Daddy, Andre Agassi and even Pitbull who helped launch Miami's Slam Academy."
But despite bipartisan and celebrity support, charter schools remain a controversial topic. So Oliver devised a system for rating their success.
"We're going to set aside whether or not charter schools are a good idea in principle because whether they are or not, in 42 states and DC we're doing them, so instead we're going to look at how they operate," Oliver said.
"In practice one group found on average charters have a slight edge over traditional public schools in reading and about the same in math but acknowledged performance is uneven across the states [Pennsyvania and Ohio being two of the worst] and across schools and that is putting it mildly because around the country there have been charter schools so flawed they don't make it through the school year," explained the host.
That's right, just like a pizza shop going out of business, charter schools can close the exact same way. That is, if they're not operating in some other fashion, like an illegal and unlicensed nightclub, such as Philadelphia's Harambee Institute.
"Wow! A nightclub in an elementary school is a recipe for disaster because those are the two most vomit-prone populations in the world," Oliver exclaimed. "They must have had to Febreeze the sh*t out of that place!"
Then there's superintendent Lisa Hamm who used her Cincinnati school as a "personal slush fund" Cincinnati.com reported. And online charters? Even wilder.
"They serve 180,000 students and even if they just get the average $7000 per student that's over a billion dollars in taxpayer money going to cyber charters annually, and some have an attendance system you would not f*cking believe," Oliver said.
This includes reporting 100% attendance even if zero students are attending class, which they probably won't if they're not counted as absent until they don't log on for a week.
"You're basically giving kids a box containing video games, pornography and long division and claiming a hundred percent of them chose the right one," Oliver compared.
"The problem with letting the free market decide when it comes to kids, is that kids change faster than the market, and by the time it's obvious the school is failing, futures may have been ruined," said Oliver.