Center for Education Reform Receives More than 250 Entries For Its $100K “Hey John Oliver, Back Off My Charter School!” Video Contest

Students’ compelling stories tell John Oliver – and the world – the value of charter schools

WASHINGTON, DC — The Center for Education Reform (CER) announced today that it has received entries from more than 250 charter schools telling John Oliver via video “to back off my charter school.”

“The response has been fantastic,” said CER’s founder and CEO Jeanne Allen. “The videos are wonderful in conveying just how valuable charter schools are to communities and how they are helping students perform better than they would in a traditional school.”

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

“We could have written a letter of complaint signed by a few hundred people and told John Oliver why his ‘report’ was unfair. But then we thought ‘Why not let him hear directly from the schools themselves – in their own words, voices and images?’ It’s a high-tech ‘out of the mouths of babes’ approach to correcting the public record,” Allen said.

CER will be impaneling a group of independent judges who are passionate about bringing opportunity to students to determine the competition’s winner and recipient of its $100,000 prize. Videos will be evaluated on their messaging, creativity, video quality, and how well they convey distinguishing features of the charter school experience. A winner will be selected by the end of October, and all videos will be posted to CER’s web site.

“Not to sound cliché, but they’re all winners,” Allen said. “All the videos are great and everyone who participated – parents, educators, students, school leaders – all did a marvelous job in letting the public know just how important charter schools are.”

About the Center for Education Reform

Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that the conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.

Ted Strickland’s Vile Comments on Charter Schools

October 7, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – The following statement was issued today by Jeanne Allen, Founder and CEO of The Center for Education Reform, regarding comments made by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Strickland, a Democrat who is trailing Republican Rob Portman in the state’s Senate race, made comments Wednesday that for-profit entities associated with charter schools have “raped” taxpayers:

“Strickland’s comment about education service providers in Ohio has about as much integrity as his vile comment that Justice Scalia’s death happened at a ‘good time.’

“The tax-status of an organization is irrelevant to quality. Scores of traditional public schools in this country have failed to educate children for generations regardless of their financial foundation.

“What is relevant is that charter schools not only work to improve student achievement and strengthen families and communities, but they actually save taxpayers money in the long run.

“Those who lead our nation and care about education must conduct themselves with civility. We call on Ohio’s Democratic party to publicly denounce Ted Strickland’s comments.”


About the Center for Education Reform

Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that the conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.

Newswire: October 4, 2016 — Unions throw more money at Massachusetts charter campaign — State Policy Network addresses innovation & opportunity — Is School Choice the Black Choice? Event in DC


UNION MONEY IN MA. The NEA just approved $3M more to fight education opportunity in The Bay State, bringing their contribution to $4.9M. And that’s not including the local MA Teachers Association spend of $9M, along with the in-kind donations of teacher canvassing across the state to convince people that charters are bad for public schools. The reality is charters actually increase support for public schools – and increase funding for schools kids leave, giving districts plenty of resources to fix what ails them. Perhaps unions are getting nervous that news outlets big and small are exposing their false talking points on charter schools. CER CEO Jeanne Allen sheds light on reality of school funding in a local MA paper here.  


#SPNAM2016. Three cheers for all the great work the State Policy Network is doing surrounding innovation and opportunity! If you’re at the annual gathering happening now in Nashville, be sure to find CER CEO Jeanne Allen and VP of Public Affairs Amy McGrath to chat about important topics surrounding education innovation and opportunity – like this great panel yesterday about how funding school choice increases support for all choices.


BACK OFF. Hundreds of parents, students, educators, and school leaders stepped up to the plate to show why their charter school works better for them than the status quo. The winner of the “Hey John Oliver, Back Off My Charter School!” Video Contest is scheduled to be announced by the end of the month. Keep the momentum going by sending your stories, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates!


IS SCHOOL CHOICE THE BLACK CHOICE? Don’t miss the engaging News One Now host Roland S. Martin at Howard University in DC for a special town hall meeting on October 5 alongside respected educators as they address issues of educating our youth. Doors open at6pm. Event details and registration here.


Newswire: September 27, 2016 — Charter school video contest deadline extended — CER Relaunch — CommonLit Drives Innovation — Update on Charter Cap Lift Efforts in Massachusetts — SABIS and Clooney Foundation Team Up


CONTEST DEADLINE EXTENDED. You asked for an extension on your homework, so we listened. We get it — charter schools are busy doing the important work of educating all kids to their fullest potential, so we’re granting an extension to all schools. The “Hey John Oliver! Back Off My Charter School” video contest deadline has been extended to September 30. So keep those videos coming so we can show the world, and John Oliver, all the wonderful ways charters are changing children’s lives!


CER RELAUNCHED. Education reform has evolved — and so have we. By leading the creation of a new ecosystem that has innovators and entrepreneurs at the center of the work, CER will ensure that thousands more thought leaders and millions more people become engaged in new efforts to advance educational excellence.  Stay tuned for additional details about the Center’s new Theory of Change in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, check out


LITERACY INNOVATION. CommonLit, CER’s partners in innovation, last week announced a new interactive platform that allows teachers to track students’ reading & writing progress. CommonLit is a perfect example of Innovation + Opportunity = Results, as it seeks to improve US reading outcomes by providing 5-12th grade literacy teachers resources they need to engage students who may be reading on different levels.


“ABSURD”. There’s a new ad in Massachusetts — “Absurd” — that pushes back on myths being spread by unions that charters drain funding. This truth-telling is much needed, as team EdReform witnessed this weekend on the ground in the Bay State working to educating citizens on expanding opportunity. “Thank you. I would have been totally blind to it,” said one woman after speaking with us. An important lesson for all charter supporters to keep educating your neighbors and spreading the word!


MUST READ. Don’t miss this important read on what’s happening in the digital education world, from our friends at Getting Smart.



EDUCATING REFUGEES. The global education management company SABIS has teamed up with the Clooney Foundation for Justice, Google.Org, Virgin Unite, and the Radcliffe Foundation to roll out a phased plan to open schools in the areas of Lebanon most heavily populated by Syrian refugees. Three cheers for SABIS and company for taking the important mission of education opportunity abroad.


The Candidates on Education Reform: Their Records & Rhetoric

It’s fair to say some of the candidates for president & vice president have long, public records about nearly every aspect of education policy & education reform. Some, less so. And some candidates’ views have morphed over the years, changed, reversed, and even come back again.

Just what can we make of their statements & position papers, their sound bites & past actions? CER takes a look:

Clinton Kaine Trump Pence
After School/Summer Supports longer school days & longer school years, beginning with those who are poorest. Kaine’s Middle School Access Technical Education Act would allow afterschool programs to partner with CTE providers to teach students about career options. n/a Issued proclamation supporting “Lights on Afterschool” & highlighting Indiana’s commitment o quality afterschool programs.
Charter Schools Mixed: has supported in the past, then reversed, and has now come back to a nearly full-throated endorsement. The media reports he’s “no fan” of charters, and it’s noted Virginia has just nine charter schools. “Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition-the American way.” Has expanded charters, & created a $50 million loan program for them, as well as allocating $500 per pupil for nonacademic expenses.


He passed laws ensuring charter accountability & Indiana is ranked #1 in that today.

School Choice Opposes vouchers. Believes they are unconstitutional, and believes money would go to schools that are “antithetical” to American values. Opposes vouchers, but passed a law allowing parents with a high school diploma to home school their children. “We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice. “ Indiana’s is the most comprehensive. Pence pushed to lift the funding cap available per student and to add in middle-income students to the mix, and the program has grown to over 30,000 students statewide.
STEM/STEAM She has proposed increased investments to train computer science teachers, create new STEM opportunities in public schools, and doubling the $120 million federal funding in Innovation (i3). Argues for increasing arts & sciences education, and not rating them as electives but opening them to all to shine & grow as students. n/a n/a
College/Career Has promised to refocus & reframe how we talk about vocational education, and has suggested a tax credit for businesses participating in apprenticeship programs. Kaine actually pushed to use middle school as a time of career exploration.


Has argued to use military tuition benefits for career & technical skills, such as welding.


Co-founder, Senate Career & Technical Education Caucus

n/a Pence also focused on local regional councils and a state council for educators to better understand the key skills set companies look for in their area & then a state council to unify standards and needs.
Common Core Supports. “I have always supported national standards.” Supports Common Core, though Virginia has not accepted the standards. Opposes Common Core. Pulled Indiana out of Common Core & had a committee craft standards “for Hoosiers, by Hoosiers.”   The standards have met with criticism by anti-Common Core activists who claim they’re too close to what they supposedly repealed.
Disabilities/IDEA She has supported full funding (and increased funding) for the IDEA programs. “But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs.”


n/a Cosponsored the Helping Children Succeed by Fully Funding the Individuals with Disabilities Act.
Early Childhood Need more of it, especially for poor or disadvantaged children. Kaine expanded pre-k nearly 40 percent as governor. In the Senate as proposed increases in early learning opportunities. He has talked “around” this issue, especially regarding quality child-care. Pence pushed, and personally lobbied for, pre-k expansion that was opposed by his own conservative allies.
Federal Role Supports an increased role, including new “Federal Education SWAT” teams to help public schools most in need. Supports full funding of NCLB. Has suggested the federal government provide a bonus to teachers achieving “national” certification. Wants to drastically cut the Department of Education. One of just 25 Republican members to vote no on George W. Bush’s signature education legislation, No Child Left Behind.
Innovation & Opportunity “Education is the ultimate innovation prerequisite.” Kaine believes options should abound for students in high school and a transcript should read more like a “personalized” resume. n/a Proposed a $300 million effort to create innovation in Indiana. One part of that plan was working with high schools to inspire innovation & entrepreneurship.
Teaching, Assessments, Evaluation Believes here is where the Federal government actually requires “too much” testing.

Says we need “better & fewer” tests.

Kaine believes there’s too much testing and we need to focus more “on learning.” “He has called for merit pay for teachers. Has also said that America spends more on education than most yet ranks below “25 countries” in educational outcomes. Supports merit pay, and has enacted a $30 million bonus program. Also supports revamping the state tests.


Donald Trump calls school choice ‘new civil rights issue’ of our time

by Kurtis Lee
Los Angeles Times
September 24, 2016

Donald Trump had nothing to say at his rally Saturday about the recent police shootings of black men that have mobilized civil rights activists across the country — but he did talk talk about what he sees as the “new civil rights issue of our time.”

In Trump’s view, it is school choice.

“Too many African Americans have been left behind and trapped in poverty,” Trump said in Roanoke, Va., stressing that he, not Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, will foster better schools and create more jobs for African Americans.

“I will fight to make sure every single African American child in this country is fully included in the American dream. That includes the new civil rights issue of our time: School choice,” he said.

Republicans have often invoked school choice in their efforts to woo minority support from Democrats.

Trump, in the final stretch of a campaign marked by racially divisive rhetoric, is making an overt pitch to black voters. But the appeals, rarely made before black audiences, also appear to be aimed at easing concerns of moderate white voters uneasy with Trump’s racially coded rhetoric.

Read the full Los Angeles Times article.

Debate Predictions: Education and the First Presidential Debate


POLITICO: Morning Education
September 26, 2016

IT’S DEBATE NIGHT! The education policy world will tune into tonight’s presidential debate looking for any mention of their issues, and there’s a lot of hot topics that could come up, including college affordability, preschool access, child care and school choice. One Democratic source said a question about Donald Trump’s $20 billion school choice plan could happen “during the prosperity part of the debate. Something about how he would execute it given that he’s planning to eliminate the Education Department to pay for his tax cuts.” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who’s attending the debate at Hofstra University, said that if anything edu-related gets a mention, it will probably involve tackling student debt and child care affordability. And the folks at Bellwether Education Partners speculated that college access and affordability issues could make a debate appearance.

Center for Education Reform founder Jeanne Allen suspects Hillary Clinton will plug her plans for debt-free college and universal pre-K. “As for Trump, he will likely find the opportunity a couple of times to mention school choice, as well as the need for better schools. And in a hopeful aspiration for bipartisanship, I suspect – if it comes to a conversation about working mothers – they will likely both agree on child care … on some level.”

Read more in Politico’s Morning Education.

Nation’s Most Senior Education Reform Group Relaunches


CER will put its tools, talent and resources to the service of expanding Innovation & Opportunity in US education across all sectors & states

September 26, 2016

Michelle Tigani

WASHINGTON, DC — The Center for Education Reform (CER) today announced its complete refocus on the changing landscape of American education, taking on the most difficult issues that no other national organization is currently pursuing.

Working to fulfill the core tenets released June 2016 in The New Opportunity Agenda, the Center has reorganized itself around the interconnected goals of ensuring that, from preschool through higher education, the conditions in the public eye, in law and policy are ripe for creating true innovation throughout the country and enabling the entrepreneurs leading the way in the US to be a model by word and deed to all peoples throughout the globe.


Coming on the heels of an intensive 8-month review of the organization, the larger education ecosystem and the hundreds of new entrants to the market that have emerged since The Center was founded in 1993, the Center’s board, team and advisors crafted a new theory of change to refocus the intent of education reform toward every student — no matter their stage in life, where they live, and how they learn. By leading the creation of a new eco-system that has innovators and entrepreneurs at the center of the work, CER will ensure that thousands more thought leaders and millions more people become engaged in new efforts to advance educational excellence.

“The Center is dedicated to finding, developing and connecting new talent, new markets and new entrepreneurs that can help solve pain points for parents, educators, leaders and doers who are willing to buck conventional wisdom,” said Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of CER. “That was my mandate upon taking on the task in December, 2015 — re-envisioning the organization I founded and help to lead 23 years ago. I’m pleased to report that the intensive 360 review of the education reform sector and the Center’s own capabilities has resulted in a novel and impactful new organization and mission.”

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-12-20-32-pmAmong the Center’s new partners in accomplishing shared goals are numerous diverse and impactful organizations, including many of the nation’s leading Accelerators and Ed Tech incubators, Higher Ed organizations, and groups involved in civic activities and the broader pursuit of literacy.

“Innovation is the pathway to opportunity,” said CER Vice Chair Michael Moe, the co-founder of Global Silicon Valley Advisors (GSV). “Our work must no longer just be about reform, but about results, which can come about from thousands of disrupting innovations and efforts across the world, if we are willing to explore them.”

In the coming weeks, the Center will be sharing additional details about its new opportunity and innovation verticals, as well as revamping its once award-winning website. In the meantime, to access the Center’s new Theory of Change, visit:


About the Center for Education Reform’s New Mission

Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that the conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.

Newswire: September 20, 2016 — John Oliver Back Off My Charter Schools Contest Deadline Soon — NAACP and charter schools — Modern States: Freshman Year For Free — Education Technology Innovation Summit

CHARTERS, PARENTS & STUDENTS HAVE 6 MORE DAYS! Don’t miss your chance to show us why your charter school works for you and your community. Submit a quick, informal video on any mobile device by September 26th for a chance to win $100K for your school. Check out the details here:

NAACP & CHARTERS. Why is the NAACP taking a stance on charter schools that is in such direct conflict with African-American families? Nate Davis, Executive Chairman of K12, explores this question this week in The Hill. Davis notes that there’s still time to right the ship, as the NAACP national board members can reject the resolution when it comes before them at their annual October meeting. Stay tuned.

FRESHMAN YEAR FOR FREE. This month, Modern States launched “Freshman Year for Free,” a pilot program with the goal of making college more accessible and affordable. Participating students learn from college professors online, and then Modern States foots the bill for their College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests, which are accepted for credit at more than 2,900 colleges and universities. Without a doubt, an amazing opportunity brought about by modern technology that can lead to improved economic outcomes for all.

ELECTION 2048. No, that’s not a typo. Success Academy Middle School debate champs will be demonstrating how the pros do it, taking their talents to Washington DC for a live debate September 27th at 2pm ET. Details and RSVP info here.

EVENT ALERT. Looking to collaborate with EdTech professionals and educators on the latest and greatest ed innovations? Look no further than the third annual Education Technology Innovation Summit (ETIS16) taking place Wednesday, September 28 in Baltimore, MD. Event info and registration at

Charter School Video Contest for $100,000: Deadline Fast Approaching

The Center for Education Reform invites ALL charter schools to submit a video for a chance to win money.

September 15, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – September 26th is the deadline for The Center for Education Reform’s (CER) “Hey John Oliver! Back Off My Charter School” Video Contest. The contest was born after HBO’s Last Week Tonight’s host, John Oliver, did an unfair and unwarranted segment, tearing apart charter schools and minimizing their impact. The Center responded by creating this contest in order to set the record straight and showcase the powerful stories of how charter schools are providing an important option to students across the country.

Parents, students or school leaders, as well as students who are not currently in charter schools but would like to be, are encouraged to shoot informal videos on their mobile devices and send those in for a chance to win $100,000 for their schools!

Videos from charter schools are flowing in, and CER is reviewing entries. A panel of independent judges, including some celebrities, will select the best video that demonstrates the most distinguishing feature of the charter school experience.

Important details and further instructions are available at


About The Center for Education Reform

Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that the conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.