Brow Beat

Attention, Class! John Oliver Is Here to Explain Everything Wrong With Charter Schools

Charter schools are the one thing that just about everyone, regardless of political ideology, can agree on: These taxpayer-funded, privately run schools have been praised by President Obama, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Bernie Sanders—heck, even Pitbull is a fan. But John Oliver is not on board. The Last Week Tonight host spent most of Sunday night’s show breaking down all the ways that the charter school system, while admirable in principle, can and does go terribly wrong.


The U.S. currently has 6,700 charter schools across 42 states, plus the District of Columbia. Slate has previously explained why for-profit charter schools tend to fail—establishing high-quality education isn’t the same as running a business. But as Oliver lays out the problems with Ohio’s once absurdly lax charter law and Pennsylvania’s repeated problems with charter school fraud, he also reminds us that the real victim in all this isn’t the taxpayer—it’s the students: “The problem with letting the free market decide when it comes to kids is that kids change faster than the market. And by the time it’s obvious a school is failing, futures may have been ruined.”

That won’t stop Oliver from wanting to open his very own charter school, though. And he knows just what to call it: The John Oliver Academy for Nervous Boys.