All Commentary
Saturday, September 3, 2016

John Oliver Is Wrong About Charter Schools: Video Rebuttal 

Yes, there are problems but the relevant comparison is with public schools

If you watch HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – or you’ve been online in the last week — you may have seen Oliver’s recent 18-minute rant about charter schools. Charters are an alternative to traditional public schools; they receive government funding but operate independently.

Though less than 6% of students in grades K-12 attend charters, John Oliver wants to make sure you fear them 100%.

But you shouldn’t be afraid – this is school choice, not the third episode of Stranger Things.

So we created a rebuttal video for our political comedy channel We the Internet TV. No spoilers, but it’s titled “John Oliver is Wrong about Charter Schools.”


If you missed the HBO segment, Oliver aired a laundry list of grievances about charters. And it was funny enough to briefly distract us from how many public schools are utterly failing their students. As our head writer and host Lou Perez explains in our response video, “Who wants to think about entire school systems faking student test scores or even pushing underperforming students to drop out?” Not us! That’s depressing.

Some of Oliver’s complaints about charters actually showcase their benefits. For example, Oliver laments, “there have been charter schools so flawed that they don’t make it through the school year.” Lou explains that this means that they’re actually held accountable when they don’t produce results or engage in criminal activity.

It’s hard to provide complete context in a short comedy sketch. We know that first hand. But as one of our YouTube commenters put it, “if I had only watched [the John Oliver] video I would think charter schools are this horrible thing, a joke, a scam.”

We’re not saying charter schools are perfect but neither are traditional public schools. It’s disingenuous to ignore the real benefits charters provide to millions of students, who have few choices when it comes to education. Of the nearly 3 million charter school students, 76 percent are non-white, and 39 percent are from low-income families. But we get it, that’s not as funny.

If you get your news from comedy shows, for better or worse, you’re in good company. (In fact, you’re probably brilliant if that show is our comedy web channel We the Internet TV.) But when it comes to charter schools, John Oliver still has a lot to learn.

# # # # #​

About We the Internet TV: We the Internet TV is a political comedy channel​, which​ tackles controversial topics from gun control to free speech issues with new videos every Thursday and Friday. In its first year, We the Internet has earned millions of views, started important conversations about the role of government in society, received press coverage in major publications, and won two honorable mentions in the online video category from the prestigious Webbys (a.k.a. the Academy Awards of the Internet). Watch and subscribe at

  • Lana Link, the Moving Picture Institute's vice president of talent development, recruits filmmakers into MPI's grant programs and masterclasses, which she also produces. She also writes and produces original screenplays, such as GRINGA, a short film premiering in 2018. She is a creative producer for Webby-winning online comedy news channel WE THE INTERNET TV and has associate producer credits on documentaries including MAMA RWANDA and INCARCERATING US. She has years of experience mentoring filmmakers in their careers and during all stages of production, including marketing and distribution.