Yesterday the Center for Education Reform, Jeanne Allen's pro-charter advocacy group, announced the "Hey John Oliver, Back Off My Charter School" video contest, in which your charter school can win $100,000 for creating a video that will show John Oliver "why making fun of charter schools is no laughing matter..."
The press release from CER, as always, quoting Allen:
|$100K if your school can be funnier than this professional comedian|
Or as the contest website puts it
Here is a brief summary of Mr. Oliver’s presentation: “Some charter schools have been mismanaged. Ergo, ipso facto, presto change-o, all charter schools are bad, bad, bad.”
That's a sloppy misreading of Oliver's piece, which actually bent over backwards to include the opposing views of charters. What Oliver pointed out is that the charter school business is an unregulated playground for folks who are far more interested in making money than educating students. But to refute that would be hard; better to fashion a John Oliver-shaped straw man that can be easily defeated. "He said that all charter schools are bad. Here's one that isn't. Boom!"
There are some rules for this. Here's the basic idea of what your charter school is supposed to create:
Let viewers know why students chose your school over all the others. Help them understand the opportunities charters offer (and which wouldn’t exist without charters).
I, too, would be interested to see what opportunities charters offer that wouldn't exist without charters. Perhaps some videos will highlight charter-only perks like "getting away from Those Children" or "enjoying a constantly churning staff of underpaid unretained teachers" or "the delightful mystery of what exactly is being done with our tax dollars" or "the warm glow of knowing that we've helped some investors make a buck or ten" or even "the suspense of never knowing when my school might suddenly close." Please, somebody, make that video.
The video must be "home made" on a phone or tablet-- slick production values are not allowed because that would just point to the idea that charters are high-profit businesses rather than schools. It can't look like it cost $100,000 to make, because that would draw attention to the fact that charter folks have that kind of money to drop on PR stunts.
Kind of like just pulling $100K out of pocket for a PR generating contest shows that the charter industry and its BFFs can play fast and loose with big chunks of money (most of which comes from the taxpayers).
The "Our School Is Great" video is a common genre. Public schools all across the country make them-- for free-- all the time. But it's completely in keeping with the charter school industry that, having failed to raise a groundswell of grass roots anger over the Oliver piece (which is now over a week old and yet the righteous indignation over it seems largely confined to people who make their living shilling for charters), the charter cheerleading squad must now pay somebody to stand up for them and help them fight back against this PR disaster.