Before leaving for a month-long hiatus, Last Week Tonight used back-to-school season to put charter schools under the microscope, offering up some disturbing results. Predictably, the show kicked off by discussing the events of Rio 2016, including Ryan Lochte's "incident" and offered some advice to Donald Trump's campaign.
Host John Oliver started the show by talking about Rio, specifically, the controversies that persisted throughout the Olympic games. He zeroed in on US swimmer Ryan Lochte, who had claimed he and three other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint. Unfortunately for Lochte and his incredible, almost unbelievable story, it turned out that he and the swimmers were actually confronted by a security guard after causing damage to a gas station bathroom in Rio.
In light of back to school season, the main topic dealt with school, charter schools in particular. Politicians of all parties adore praising charter schools; it's one of the few things that will unite politicians from both sides of the aisle. Simply put, a charter school is taxpayer funded, but privately run and began over two decades ago as a way to experiment with different educational techniques. Since then, they have become incredibly popular, with nearly three million children currently enrolled in one.
Charter schools are a controversial issue, with many people for them and almost just as many against. Those who are for these types of schools tend to point to positive news stories as proof that the schools work. One particular story indicated that over eighty percent of students who attend a charter school will go on to attend post-secondary, which is well above the average for public schools. Critics of charter schools, however, argue that these statistics are overstated, that they choose high achieving students in order to boost their college acceptance rates, and that they take precious resources from other, poorer schools in the same school district.
Oliver clarified that for the purpose of this segment, they aren't going to address the controversy or provide an opinion about whether or not charter schools are a good idea. Instead, they examined how the schools operate in the real world, and allow the audience to draw their own opinion.
One study found that the the quality of charter schools varies dramatically throughout the country, with some even closing their doors part way through the school year. In some cases, the schools closed partway through the day, without notice to students or parents that the closure was about to occur.
While many parents would assume that there is a rigorous screening process required before any school is allowed to open, this isn't always the case. In the case of one particular charter school in Florida, they didn't even have a stable building and instead relied on transporting the children from location to location, even using daily field trips when a building wasn't available. Making the screening process too easy is a risky move, putting the educational development of thousands of children at risk.
Oliver also highlighted the number of charter school executives who have been fired or are under investigation for fraud. The problem is so prevalent, that Philadelphia magazine actually advises parents to conduct a Google search of the school they are considering sending their children to, in order to be sure that the school hasn't been shut down before or that the CEO hasn't been investigated for theft or fraud.
An investigation into charter schools in Ohio found that they misspent taxpayer money nearly four times as often as any other type of agency. One superintendent in particular misspent public funds on a ton of personal items, such as spas, luggage, multiple trips to Europe and a trip to see the filming of 'Oprah'. Her excuse? She needed to experience life for herself in order to properly educate the children. Other schools in Ohio found ways to cheat the system by having oversight groups founded by the same individual running the school, leading to inflated student counts and millions of taxpayer dollars being misspent.
One other area where charter schools seem to have been allowed to run freely is online schools. Nearly 180,000 students are enrolled in online charter schools, which results in nearly a billion dollars in revenue. Some of these schools have attendance policies that still result in them receiving funds even if the student stops attending - with many not counting a student absent until he or she hasn't logged in for five days. Others simply report 100 per cent attendance regardless of log in rates.
Online education can be important for many kids, especially those suffering from mobility issues or who have mental health concerns. However, they need to be better regulated. One study found that students enrolled in online charter schools "lost 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year", which is simply unacceptable for any educational program.
Oliver used the pizza shop reference made about Ohio schools earlier, arguing that if charter schools are going to continue to operate, they need to be regulated as well or better than "pizza shops". It isn't a greasy meal that is at stake, but the entire future of a child who may be left without a school mid-year, or who may receive a sub-par education, limiting their future.
It's like the old saying: give a kid a shitty pizza, you fuck up their day. Treat a kid like a shitty pizza, you could fuck up their entire life.
Last Week Tonight ended by offering some advice to Donald Trump about his campaign. Oliver began the segment by apologizing for talking about Trump so much recently, seemingly acknowledging common viewer complaints. However, since the show is taking a month-long breaks there were some things he "need[ed] to say" about Trump and his campaign after the recent issues that have plagued his campaign, from his campaign manager resigning to his low poll numbers. As Oliver pointed out, it is a clear fork in the road for Trump: he will either bounce back, or fail miserably.
Losing is obviously not an option for the self-proclaimed billionaire, given that he's constructed his entire campaign around " not doing that". Losing wouldn't just be "off-brand, it would be brand destroying", but the alternative wouldn't be much better for Trump. Winning means that he would "actually have to run the country", which isn't exactly suited to his lifestyle. So, to help out Trump, Oliver addressed the rest of his segment to Trump directly, urging him to drop out of the race and claim that running was only a farce, a way to expose the holes in the system. Trump managed to demonstrate the flawed way in which political campaigns are financed, pointed out the "flaws in the media, while still exploiting them", shown how far politicians will go to please their base, and "exposed the flaws in us". Trump ran a campaign based on ignorance and bigotry, and no one stopped him. In fact, he has millions of supporters across the United States. Oliver imagined how powerful it would be for Trump to acknowledge that, and question society's morals in light of those facts.
If you dropped out, you would not be a loser - you'd be a legend.
To add extra incentive to Oliver's proposal, he mentioned that there was basically a guideline for this situation written in 1996 in a children's book called "The Kid Who Ran For President". Acknowledging that Trump doesn't tend to enjoy reading, Last Week Tonight decided to get actor Will Arnett to record an audio book version and aired a few extracts. One particular extract contained a resignation speech from the "kid" in question, which Oliver argued would be the perfect speech for Trump to use when he drops out of the race. Oliver sweetened the deal even more, by inviting Trump on his show, despite never wanting Trump to appear in the past. He did add an important caveat however: Trump was invited to appear if and only if he delivers that exact speech to the nation.
You can watch the main segment on charter schools below. Last Week Tonight will return in a month's time, perhaps with an epic Trump resignation speech.
[Ryan] Lochte, the purest form of the chemical element 'Bro'.
Ryan Lochte, America's idiot sea cow.
Our main topic tonight concerns school. If Pink Floyd had gone to one they'd have known it's 'we don't need any education' - you undermined your point.
First, no one has ever called it a 'pizza shop'. Second, it's a little hard to hear the man who just defunded Planned Parenthood talk about the importance of choice.
I would suggest indicates a problem with the legal minimum. Because 30 kids showed up and the school claims that had 450, which doesn't speak well of an oversight group calling itself 'Kids Count'.
You're basically giving children a box that contains video games, pornography, and long division, and claiming that 100 per cent of them choose the right one.
Finally tonight, Donald Trump: a racist voodoo doll made of discarded cat hair.
[Donald Trump] is like an alien impersonating a human but his only research was watching Charlie Sheen interviews.
[to Trump on exploiting the media's coverage of him and his campaign] I can't blame you for that. You're basically saying 'you seem to like dumpster fires, I'm basically a pile of oily trash and a match, let's fucking dance'.
We've even constructed that weird podium you used at the Republican convention. Remember? The creepy one that looks like the podium the Empire used when it announced it was going to strike back.