With parents gearing up for the new school year across North America, John Oliver used his latest episode of Last Week Tonight to take a critical look at charter schools - those specialized institutions across America that apply competitive business models to the education industry.
"Charters are basically public schools that are taxpayer funded but privately run," Oliver explained. "The first ones emerged 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 [hip hop mogul] Puff Daddy, [tennis star] Andre Agassi and even [rapper] Pitbull....And when Pitbull has a charter school, it seems like it might be worth taking a look at them."
Oliver noted that there are charter schools in 42 states and the District of Columbia. And while many are meeting their educational and business goals, not all are succeeding. In fact, not many are living up to expectations as schools let alone businesses.
"Around the country, there have been charter schools so flawed, they don't make it through the school year. Charters in some states can have an alarming failure rate. Two years ago, a Florida paper found that since 2008, 119 charter schools had closed [in the Sunshine State] - 14 of which hadn't even finished their first school year [before going out of business]."
Some of those schools likely failed because the approval process for charters isn't well regulated, according to Oliver. The founder of one of those closed charters in Florida didn't have permanent classrooms for students, who were shuttled to different locations until the school folded just seven weeks after the school year began. Right now, the founder of that charter is awaiting trial for grand theft after being accused of embezzling the school's money.
Building doubles as a school and nightclub
But that corruption is nothing compared to a school in Pennsylvania, where the founder was accused not only of fraud and embezzlement but also of operating an illegal nightclub in the cafeteria after school hours. "Wow, a nightclub in an elementary school is a recipe for disaster because those are the two most vomit prone populations in the world. They must've had to Febreze the shit out of that place," Oliver joked.
Check out the full clip for more examples of corrupt charters, which ironically teach us that it might be time to impose stricter regulations on the education industry in America.