Newswire: August 30, 2016 — Back Off My Charter School John Oliver Video Contest — PDK Poll — Debunking Charter School Myths in Massachusetts


#BACKOFFMYCHARTER. Win $100,000 for your charter school! CER’s “Hey John Oliver, Back Off My Charter School!” Video Contest is officially underway to show the world why John Oliver’s segment on charter schools was unbalanced, unfair, and misleading. We want to hear from parents, teachers, students, and students on waitlists why they prefer to be at a charter school. Details at


HOW YOU CAN HELP.  A good education is an opportunity all kids deserve. Charters do an immense amount of good, and it’s vital to correct the record when a noted social critic’s comments could have an impact far beyond entertainment or humor.  Help spread the word by writing about the contest or spreading the word via social media or email. Tweet this. Facebook this.


PDK POLL. When something isn’t right, we aren’t afraid to speak up, which is why for years we’ve criticized PDK & its former partner Gallup for loaded survey questions. While there is room for debate as to whether or not the questions and analysis offered by the just-released 48th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools truly reflect public sentiment, the results are far more valid and clear than ever before. More here.

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DEBUNKING MYTHS IN MA. Thankfully, we aren’t the only ones tackling inaccuracies being spewed off by opponents of education opportunity. Check out the latest from the Lowell Sun editorial board setting the record straight that charter schools are “all gain, no drain.”


The Center for Education Reform Takes on HBO’S Last Week Tonight, Launching CER’s $100,000 “Hey John Oliver, Back Off My Charter School!” Video Contest

August 29, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — The Center for Education Reform (CER) today announced it has launched a contest offering $100,000 to the charter school that produces the best video showing the value of charter schools to students, teachers and communities.

Dubbed CER’s “Hey John Oliver, Back Off My Charter School!” Video Contest, the competition is in direct response to a recent episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, in which Oliver offered a highly critical, and hugely unbalanced, critique of America’s charter schools and charter school movement.

“The program was meant to be funny and provocative entertainment,” said CER Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeanne Allen, “but Oliver went way out of bounds and far beyond simple entertainment when he used examples of a few poorly run schools to paint all charters, and the whole concept of charter schools, as failures.”

Allen said that while typically she could let such “clearly outrageous” charges go unanswered, in this case, the offense was too great to ignore. “The program was so misleading and reached so many people with truly damaging misinformation that it’s important to correct the record,” Allen said. “And what better way to do that than to go straight to the charter schools themselves and have them tell their stories of opportunity and success, and how their current school differs dramatically from their zoned school.”

All charter schools in the country are eligible to participate in the contest, and all entries will be posted online so the public can get a true picture of the work, and success, of the vast majority of charters nation-wide. A panel of judges will review all entries and select one school to receive the $100,000 prize.

“It’s very frustrating for anyone associated with a charter school or the charter school movement to see charters take such an unfair beating – especially when the program’s distortions are picked up by critics and foisted off as ‘news’ or impartial ‘analysis,'” said Allen. “Our contest gives everyone a way to combat that frustration and fight back against an unfair and unwarranted attack.”

For more information on CER’s $100,000 “Hey John Oliver! Back Off My Charter School!” Video Contest, CLICK HERE.

PDK Education Poll Provides Clearer Results Than Ever Before

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Statement from CER Founder & CEO on the 48th Annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

AUGUST 29, 2016

The following statement was issued today by Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, on the latest PDK poll on education:

“This year’s annual PDK International Poll is a welcome change. For years, we’ve criticized PDK & its former partner Gallup for their approach, which has often utilized loaded questions with qualitative language calculated to evoke certain responses. For example, respondents would be asked if they believe more money or reform was the answer to ailing schools or if “privately run” charter schools were a good thing, even though charters are as public as traditional public schools.

While there is room for debate as to whether or not the questions and analysis offered by PDK this year truly reflect public sentiment, the results are far more valid and clear than ever before. We commend Josh Starr for his stewardship and the seriousness with which he is approaching the court of public opinion, and welcome open dialogue about how to respond to the public’s demands for schools that best meet the needs of all students.”

McCarthy to Oliver: Make It Right


A Letter to John Oliver from Appletree Charter Schools Founder Jack McCarthy:

I’m a fan of the show and I thought your report on charter schools was devastating. It would also be reasonable for your team to report on the ineptitude, corruption and self-dealing that takes place in public schools that operate under the district governance and finance model. That is, after all, what led to the creation of charter schools in the first place.

Jack-McCarthy-AppleTreeYou may not be aware — in this year of grotesque, daily, pathological lying at the highest levels of our political discourse — how your report is being used as a cudgel against thousands of courageous, mission-driven educators dedicated to improving the lives and outcomes of our most disadvantaged children. Their work is hard enough. It doesn’t have to be disparaged further in such a ham-handed, easily-manipulated fashion.

Have your staff explore how your report is being used in a nation-wide war against charter schools. If this is what you intended, then I’m not a fan any longer. If this is not what you intended, make it right.

I hope you will take the opportunity to examine the ineptitude, corruption and self-dealing of some of the leaders of the AFT and NEA.

In Washington, DC, several years ago, the leader of the Washington Teachers Union was sent to jail for stealing members’ dues, as detailed in this Washington Post report. There is a robust amount of material to work with. Don’t limit it to charters because most are making a tremendous difference in the lives of children. The ones that don’t, close. And that’s a good thing.

Jack McCarthy
President and CEO of Appletree Early Learning Public Charter School

Jack McCarthy is a pioneer in the charter school field, having helped influence the development of the Massachusetts charter sector before contributing to its growth in Washington, DC. Since 1995, under his leadership,  AppleTree Early Learning has grown to serve 640 children at seven sites throughout Washington, DC with countless more on waiting lists. AppleTree Institute won a $5 million US Department of Education Investing in Innovation (‘i3”) development grant for Every Child Ready in 2010.

Please join those who are taking time to share their views with John Oliver by writing him at

Newswire: August 23, 2016 — An Open Letter to Charter Schools Regarding John Oliver’s Parody

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An open letter to charter schools, your staffs and your parents, and, most importantly, your students –

This weekend the late night British comedian John Oliver parodied charter schools, poking fun at politicians and celebrities who support them, serving up misstatements and lies about their success & drawing from anti-charter sentiment that is all too prevalent today.

Highly credible researchers and organizations have dismissed his poor taste as just the rantings of a comedian, as satire, which is “his job.” But tens of thousands that find their employment in the organizations you challenge gloated, tweeted and sent their combined millions of members to view and further promote.

Worse, highly credible news sources, including TIME Magazine, the Washington Post, and popular rags like Rolling Stone, carried and repeated the Oliver jokes on charters.

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The problem is, it’s no joke what you do every day, and it’s no laughing matter that people who have never experienced bad education think it’s funny to mock those who desperately need a good education for themselves.

The response from the teachers union and others who are currently engaged in a WAR on charter schools is nothing short of coronation for John Oliver. In Massachusetts, hundreds of anti-charter forces working to prevent the more than 32,000 students on waiting lists to achieve their dreams cackled over social media all night and day about the parody, trying to intimidate voters who might otherwise want to vote to lift their charter cap.

You know what it’s like to be in your community and be criticized for doing the hard work it takes to demonstrate results year after year under a microscope, with higher standards and fewer resources than other public schools.

You know what it’s like to teach children who come into your school having been failed for years prior.

You know what it’s like to transform not just a child’s life, but a community, and to have the freedom and flexibility to do your job and create programs that meet the personalized needs of students.

And you know what it’s like to fight for your charter school, year after year, when the opponents challenge you.

So take a minute today and send a letter to John Oliver. Tweet at him, too. Tell him what you do, and what you think of his ignorant disregard for the work you do. Send a letter to your parents so they know how to respond when they get mocked for sending their children to a charter school. As the father of charter schools Ted Kolderie wrote me today quoting Jean Monnet, “Resistance is always proportional to the scale of the change being attempted.”

You know you’re doing something right when this much attention, even negative, is given to you. Keep it up. But keep fighting, too.

Yours for the kids,
Jeanne Allen, Founder and CEO, and the CER team

Sad Day for Teachers’ Rights in California

Statement from CER Founder & CEO on California Supreme Court Denial to Hear Vergara v. California Case

AUGUST 22, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — The following statement was issued today by Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, on the California Supreme Court’s denial to hear the Vergara v. California case dealing with employment rules such as teacher tenure:

“At a time when innovation and opportunity are so desperately needed in education, it’s astounding to think that hiring and firing decisions are based on artificial parameters such as how many years an educator has been in the classroom. It’s a huge disservice to kids. Our schools need the freedom to staff their institutions appropriately to meet students’ ever-changing needs.

“The California Supreme Court has inserted legal rights that otherwise do not exist. In doing so, they relegate too many children badly in need of a great education to ineffective schools and ignore the science that a great teacher can make a difference in the life of a child.

“Tenure discourages great teachers by protecting those who might not be able to keep their job if they had to prove their success. This decision is bad for aspiring teachers and bad for kids.”

The campaign against charter schools

Letter to the Editor
Boston Globe
August 19, 2016

Liam Kerr’s call to action in “We need an Olympian focus on charter school facts” (Opinion, Aug. 17) could not be more important, as children’s futures are at stake.

But unfortunately, teachers unions are leading a deliberate, deceptive campaign designed to scare those who support families’ rights to choose the best education for their children.

In May, the Massachusetts Teachers Association approved more than $9 million to fight expanding charter school opportunities. Every year, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) encourage and support state legislation that rolls back charter schools, using war chests at their disposal to promote traditional public education structures. In 2005, the NEA committed $1.75 million of membership dues to push an agenda aimed at hurting innovative opportunities and charter schools. This year, the NEA plans to spend close to $36 million to “seek political and legislative outcomes that support great public schools and sustainable organizational power,” with $1.4 million specifically going towards anti-charter efforts in Massachusetts.

It’s disappointing that so much money is being devoted to maintaining the status quo, when there are more than 30,000 children waiting for access to schools that have a proven record of preparing children — including those most historically underserved by our traditional public schools — for academic success.

Jeanne Allen

Founder and CEO

Center for Education Reform

Washington, D.C.

Newswire: August 17, 2016 — Olympic Athlete’s Dreams Made Possible by Education Opportunity — Blended and Online Success Stories — New Charter Cap In North Carolina


BACK TO SCHOOL CONTINUES. It’s week two of back-to-school highlights of great accomplishments of innovative opportunities in education, with a focus on blended and digital learning this edition. Have great news? Don’t be shy — submit it to



BLENDED & ONLINE SCHOLARSHIP SUCCESS. Thirty-one high school graduates able to access unique learning opportunities thanks to the Foundation for Online and Blended Learning (FBOL) will embark on post-secondary endeavors with financial support. Watch FBOL Chairman & CER Board of Directors member Kevin P. Chavous explain why innovative options like blended and online learning are so important to US education.


GOING FOR GOLD. Aniya Louissaint graduated from Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) in May, and now she’s showing off her taekwondo skills in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Parents and students choose schools for a variety of reasons, and without the flexibility of GCA, Aniya “would never be able to do what she is doing,” says her father. Aniya’s story.


MORE THAN 20 YEARS STRONG. As parents in Massachusetts and nationwide demand greater education opportunity, let’s not forget how charter schools started and why — and how they are still succeeding, and growing, after more than 20 years!


NEW CAP IN TOWN. North Carolina may have eliminated its cap on charter schools years ago, but there’s a new kind of limitation in town as a result of too much power in the hands of the state education cartel versus multiple authorizers. The story.


We need an Olympian focus on charter school facts


by Liam Kerr
Boston Globe
August 17, 2016

Ah, the parallels.

Watching the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, one is reminded that not too long ago, a bid was launched to host the 2024 games right here in Boston. The proposal raised complex questions — and touched off a heated controversy.

Two years later, in between watching Michael Phelps and Simone Manuel make history, I saw television ads about another complex and controversial question: the proposed expansion of public charter schools in Massachusetts.

In the case of the Olympics, a ballot question on whether or not to host the games was forestalled when skeptical Beacon Hill leaders, attuned to public doubts about the plan, touched the brakes and insisted on a full factual vetting. With public skepticism growing, the US Olympic Committee decided to go elsewhere.

On the charter expansion issues, the experts who study the issue and the electorate also seem to agree. But on this one, public support for increasing access to these high-quality public schools did not persuade political leaders to do enough to avoid a ballot battle.

Back when plans to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston started gaining momentum, several colleagues and I began looking at economic studies of past Games. (We started what became “No Boston Olympics.”)

The results between rhetoric and reality could not have been more different.

Despite the boosterism that surrounded the effort, respected economists from Smith College, Harvard University, and Holy Cross had thoroughly examined past Olympics-hosting experiences, as had researchers at Oxford University. The clear conclusion of that research: No modern Olympics has stayed on budget.

The performance of public charter schools has undergone a similarly intensive review from leading experts. Researchers from Stanford University found that Boston’s charter schools are the best in the country, producing an extra year’s worth of learning every year. A study from economists at Harvard and MIT found that students selected to attend a Boston charter school in a random lottery greatly outperformed students who entered the lottery but didn’t win a spot.

However, that has not stopped dubious claims from public charter school opponents. Those claims deserve a similarly intensive review.

Take, for example, the assertion by charter opponents that charters cost the traditional public schools hundreds of millions in sorely needed funding. Earlier this year, then Globe opinion writer Farah Stockman dismantled that claim at least as pertains to Boston. Citing research from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, she wrote: “The budget for Boston Public Schools has risen every year, from $737 million in 2011 to more than $1 billion today. That’s a 25 percent increase, greater than the growth in the budgets of police, fire, and the city itself.” Further, Census Bureau data show that Boston Public Schools spent more per student last year than any of the 100 largest school districts in the nation. And despite that high level of spending, BPS traditional schools have a shorter school day and a shorter year than almost all Boston charter schools.

Instead of engaging in a honest debate about charters, critics try to shift the conversation to other topics, such as quibbling over whether a charter school waiting list that runs well over 30,000 kids might overcount by a few thousand. Or whether or not a pro-charter event could be held inside the State House.

Focusing on the facts here is particularly important for Democrats. This is a bread and butter issue. Charter schools fulfill the Democratic promise of an effective, responsive government that can provide real educational benefits to change the lives of disadvantaged urban kids.

Public discourse will always be rife with misrepresentations and misleading talking points. But there are times to stand up and scream the facts — especially when it is the entire electorate that makes the decision, not a few in a backroom.

In the court of public opinion, facts do still matter.

Just ask Boston 2024.

Liam Kerr was the Co-Founder of No Boston Olympics and is the Massachusetts Director of Democrats for Education Reform.

Charter School Coverage In Last 10 Years Has Become More Negative


Media coverage of charter schools has become more negative in the past decade

by American Enterprise Institute
August 2, 2016

In a new study, AEI’s director of education policy studies Rick Hess, and researchers Jenn Hatfield, and Kelsey Hamilton find that press coverage of charter schools has dramatically changed from 2005 to 2015.

Despite the fact that public opinion of charter schools has become more positive in the last 10 years, media coverage has not followed suit and has become much more negative — with opinion pieces playing a big role.

Hess concludes that while the media plays an important role in relaying education news to families, media bias or balance must be taken into consideration regarding the coverage of charter schools. The report’s findings include:

In 2005, 73 percent of articles were neutral and 12 percent were negative, whereas by 2015, 53 percent were neutral, and 28 percent were negative.

Opinion pieces made up a much larger share of charter school coverage in 2015 than in 2005. In addition, the topic of race became much more prominent in charter school coverage over time, with the share of articles that mentioned race rising from 7 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2015.

Read the full report here: How Media Coverage of Charter Schools Changed in the Past Decade.


Related Resources:
Press Perception on Charter Schools: Is the Fourth Estate’s Coverage of Charter Schools Biased? (May 2016)



The Center for Education Reform is committed to educating the media and the public about what it takes to have excellence in education for all students. Thanks to these studies, charter school students, educators and advocates can clearly see that their role in advocating has never been more important.

Advocates must take responsibility to ensure the public’s understanding of all education opportunities, so that the policies created to foster educational excellence are not stifled by misinformation and bias. The need to improve media coverage calls for a New Opportunity Agenda in education — read this and get involved.