Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 3, Episode 22 - Charter Schools - full transcript

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight !

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you so much for joining us.

Lots to get through this week,
let's quickly begin with the Olympics.

Home of sports
like "stupid tiny tennis",

"inconvenient frisbee",
and whatever the fuck this is.

These games have been
full of thrilling performances,

from Simone Biles to Usain Bolt

to the horse that danced around to
"Smooth" by Santana and Rob Thomas.

That just answered the question:
"how do you simultaneously"

"undermine the dignity of both
Carlos Santana and a horse ?"

There were also controversies,

from the presence of the Russian team
in the wake of their doping scandal

to an IOC official being arrested
for alleged ticket-scalping,

to the international saga
of Ryan Lochte,

a swimmer who looks
like he's about to play

the John Slattery role
in a porn parody of Mad Men.

Lochte made headlines this week

by claiming he and 3 other swimmers
had been robbed at gunpoint,

and then made headlines again
once witnesses,

backed up by security-cam footage
from a gas station,

revealed the swimmers had been
confronted by a security guard,

after they broke a soap dispenser
in the bathroom,

damaged a door, tore down a sign
and urinated around the premises.

And spare a thought there
for the soap dispenser.

"I was already a gas station's
men's room soap dispenser !"

"My life was shitty enough !"

"And now I'm being vandalized
by 'if Sting was a jock'" ?

And while his teammates
were detained by authorities,

Lochte, the purest form
of the chemical element Bro,

was already back in America,
offering a bullshit apology.

Lochte posting
on social media, quote:

"I want to apologize
for my behavior last weekend"

"and for not being more careful
in how I described the events".

There is no way he wrote that.
I am pretty sure that Ryan Lochte

thinks Game of Thrones
took place in the late 1800's

and still doesn't understand
how mirrors work.

"- Dude stop copying me !
- I'll stop when you stop, bro."

And look:
people are right to be angry here,

because Lochte's behavior
wasn't just shitty and entitled.

He's also ruined himself for us.
Four years ago,

he was America's favorite
sweet dumb merman,

who claimed to have designed his shoes
and described the process like this.

These are my shoes that I design
from the top to the very sole,

to the very top to the bottom...
you know... laces.

He couldn't remember
all the parts of a shoe,

and he was standing
next to hundreds of shoes !

The fact that Lochte is a total asshole
is not remotely surprising.

It's just that,
it makes him a lot less fun now.

So as we say goodbye
to the Rio Olympics,

sadly, we must also say farewell
to one of America's favorite idiots.

Ryan Lochte:
America's idiot sea cow.

What I was always good
at was letting things go through

like, through one ear
out the other so to say.

Douchebag. I don't even know.
What is a douchebag ? What is it ?

I always see babies and the clothes
that they wear and it's horrendous.

I just blanked out again.

I'm an athelet...letic person.

Whether it's life or just swimming
always do your best.

I think I'm like the only swimmer
in the world that cannot float.

Damn ! My gosh !

What defines me ? Ryan Lochte.

Moving on. Our main story tonight
concerns school.

If Pink Floyd had gone to one,

they'd have known it's
"we don't need any education".

You undermined your point.

It's currently
back to school season.

And for millions,
will be a charter school,

the things that politicians
love to praise.

I called for doubling investment
in charter schools.

- I'm a believer in charter schools.
- I believe in public charter schools.

Charter schools work very well.

Almost every politician can find
something good to say about them.

Yes, charter schools
unite both sides of the aisle

more quickly than when
a wedding DJ throws on "Hey Ya".

Look at Nana dancing ! We can never
let her know what this song is about.

Charters are public schools that are
taxpayer-funded, but privately run.

The first ones emerged 25 years ago,

as places to experiment
with new educational approaches.

Since then they've exploded:

there are over 6 700 charter schools,
educating almost 3 million students.

And some have celebrity backers,
like Puff Daddy, Andre Agassi,

and even Pitbull, who helped launch
Miami's Slam Academy.

He was a keynote speaker at a
charter school conference in 2013.

And his speech has not aged well,
for painfully clear reasons.

They told me that Bill Cosby
has spoken here before,

which I think is amazing.

Someone that I really relate to.
I also love Jello, you know ?

Yes, yes, that does look bad now.

But to be fair, it was not
commonly known at the time

that Jello was responsible for dozens
of cases of sexual assault.

Turns out, Jello is a monster.
I'm legally okay to say that.

The point is, fuck Jello.

When Pitbull has a charter school,

it seems like it might be worth
taking a look at them.

This is a controversial area.

Charter proponents will point
to positive news stories like this one,

about the KIPP
charter schools network.

KIPP students are chosen by lottery,
regardless of prior academic record.

Almost all meet federal
poverty guidelines.

And yet 82 percent go on to college.

I think one thing
that I learned at KIPP really well

is that a lot of your effort

doesn't reap any success
until way later in the future.

Any philosophy that can get those
results might be worth considering

in the same way that, if we found out
they boosted our immunity,

we'd seriously
consider eating koalas.

But critics argue
charters overstate their successes,

siphon off talented students and divert
resources within a school district.

I know this is going to make
some people on both sides very angry

we're going to set aside whether or not
charter schools are a good idea.

Because whether they are or not,
in 42 states and DC, we're doing them.

We're going to look
at how they operate in practice.

Charters had a slight edge over
traditional public schools in reading,

and did about the same at math,
but acknowledged,

"charter quality is uneven across
the states and across schools."

There've been charter schools
so flawed,

they don't make it
through the school year.

This charter school suddenly closed
its doors in the middle of the day.

An Orange County charter school
closed its doors.

The local charter school is suddenly
and unexpectedly closing it's doors.

My son left these two notes to us,
one says:

"Dear Mom is the school
going out of business ?"

Yes, you are right: that kid
spelled "business" "bis-nose",

which I'd argue
is a much better way to spell it.

That school was shut down
just six weeks into the school year,

so they should've been much better
at bis-nose.

And charters in some states
can have an alarming failure rate.

Two years ago, a Florida paper
found that, since 2008,

119 charter schools had closed there,

14 of which had never even finished
their first school year.

So 14 schools in Florida were outlasted
by NBC's Mysteries of Laura,

a show which once ended
an episode like this.

- I have a hot date tonight.
- With who ?

Threesome, actually.

That's a threesome joke
about her fucking children.

It was in the first season,
and they gave her another one !

But the point is when schools
close that fast, it's shocking.

You would assume someone
would rigorously screen a school,

making sure it was financially
and academically sound.

But that is not always the case.

Take Florida's Ivy Academies,
which shut down after just seven weeks,

due to a lack of,
among other things, a school.

The schools were repeatedly kicked out,
shuttled students among multiple sites:

the signature grand reception hall,
and two local churches.

They bus students on daily field trips
because they didn't have classrooms.

Daily field trips ?
How's that even possible ?

Surely by day ten,
you've run out of ideas

and are taking kids
to Marshall's to return a belt.

"Pretty great, right, kids ?
I'll probably get store credit,"

"we're about to go on a magical
twelve dollar scavenger hunt !"

How did those schools get approved ?

Florida's charter process
begins with a lengthy application

and Ivy Academy's
was 400 pages long,

and their founder, Trayvon Mitchell,
included passages like this one:

"Instruction is scaffolded
to provide targeted support"

"with the goal
of increasing independence."

It goes on, and it sounds great.
We found this application by a school,

Franklin Academy in Fort Lauderdale,
which predates that by two years,

and which features this passage:
"Instruction will scaffold",

and continues
in almost exactly the same way.

It's basically identical
but for a few small differences.

Like the Olsen twins.
You know one of them came first,

and then Mary Kate
plagiarized her face.

That behavior might not be illegal,
but it's certainly unethical,

or, if I may quote
from the Ivy Academy Handbook:

"You will not plagiarize works
that you find on the Internet."

"Plagiarism is using the ideas
or writings of others."

The application for Mitchell's school

would also have been grounds for him
getting thrown out of that school.

And that's not the only thing
he may have stolen.

He's been accused of spending
funds for students on himself,

and is awaiting trial for grand theft.

And the problem with the approval
process being too easy is,

there is a lot at stake
in charter schools.

They get paid
on a per-student basis,

on average, that's about
$7,000 for every enrollment.

And that adds up. Take Philadelphia's
Harambee charter school.

They named it a long time ago,

and it's spelled differently,
you fucking monsters.

Rest in peace !

That school, that school received
more than $5 million in taxpayer money,

the same year that this story emerged.

By day, the Harambee Institute
Charter School looks like any other:

educating some 450 students from
kindergarten through eighth grade.

But by night...

the cafeteria turns into Club Damani,

a bar that authorities say
is unlicensed and illegal.

Hold on ! I had a couple a shots
of Ciroc. I'm drunk up now !

A nightclub in an elementary school
is a recipe for disaster.

Because those are the two most
vomit-prone populations in the world.

They must've had to Febreze
the shit out of that place.

You'll be glad to hear that school's
under new leadership now

although that might be
because its CEO pled guilty to fraud,

for embezzling nearly $80,000
from the Harambee Institute.

Rest in peace.

And you can say: "That's
an isolated incident", but it isn't.

In Philadelphia alone, at least ten
executives or top administrators

have pled guilty in the last decade
to charges like fraud,

misusing funds,
and obstruction of justice.

Which may be why Philly Magazine
advises parents:

"Google any schools you're looking at,"

"to make sure they weren't
once unexpectedly shut down"

"or run by a CEO
who pleaded guilty to theft."

All of which
speaks to a general atmosphere

perhaps best articulated
by the state auditor.

I've said it before,
and I will say it again:

Pennsylvania has the worst charter
school law in the United States.

That is not good.

Because it is not like having the worst
something is new for Pennsylvania.

This is a state that has
the worst football fans, worst bell,

and the worst regional delicacy.

Yes, if I wanted Cheez Wiz
on my steak sandwich,

I would eat at "Kiddie Kafeteria",
the restaurant run by six year olds.

And I'm not even sure Pennsylvania
deserves to be called the worst,

because Ohio's charter law was,
for decades, so lax,

even charter advocates
have called it "the wild west".

The state has around 360 charters,
and their governor, John Kasich,

speaks often about how much he loves
choice and competition in schools.

We will improve the public schools
if there's a sense of competition.

Just like a pizza shop in a town,

if there's only one,
and there's not much pepperoni on it,

you can call
until you're blue in the face.

The best way to get more pepperoni,
is to open up a second pizza shop.

That's what's going to improve
our public schools.

That doesn't work on any level.

No one has ever called it
a "pizza shop".

It's a hard to hear the man
who defunded Planned Parenthood

talk about the importance of choice.

There is such a thing
as paying for extra pepperoni,

like a normal person.

The notion that the more pizza shops
there are, the better pizza becomes,

is effectively undercut
by the two words "Papa John's".

But Ohio's charters have had
huge problems with lack of oversight.

A review of one year's state audits
found charters misspent public money

nearly four times more often than any
other form of taxpayer-funded agency.

And some cases are incredible,
like that of Lisa Hamm,

a school superintendent accused
of spending money for her school

on spas, jewelry, luggage,
plays, veterinary care,

and trips to Europe
and to see Oprah.

She took a plea deal
without admitting guilt,

but not before delivering
this fantastic explanation.

Proverbs says
"Without vision, people perish".

And it's very important for people
to have a vision for their own lives

and in order to do that, they need
to experience what's possible in life.

In order to transfer that
to the children,

they have to experience it

That is amazing.

She's spouting a bunch
of vague bullshit about inspiration,

crossing her fingers,
and hoping people will buy it.

When you put it like that, I feel
like she has learned a lot from Oprah.

Money well spent !

For the record,
when she quoted Proverbs, saying:

"Where there is no vision,
the people perish",

she's leaving out the very next line,
which is,

"But he that keepeth the law,
happy is he".

And that's a fucking
important caveat.

There are ways to profit off of charter
schools perfectly legally in Ohio.

And there have been for years. Look
at this episode of Frontline from 2000.

By law,
charter schools must be non-profit.

But the schools can hire an educational
management company to run them,

and the EMO can try to make a profit.

Brennan calls
his EMO White Hat Management.

Education is first,
last and always a business.

If it's run like a business,
it can be done profitably.

"Yes, education is first,
last and always a business."

Take the "l" off the word learning !
"Earning !"

Take the "e" off it,
what do you got then ? "Arning !"

That's not a word, but it could be,
in one of our English classes !

White Hat Management,
worked under contracts.

Each charter would pay 95 percent
of its government funding to White Hat,

which as a private company,
isn't obligated to provide

the same level of transparency
as, say, a school district.

Taxpayers could have little idea
how that money was being spent.

And who can say
if that's a good system or not ?

White Hat ran 32 of the lowest
performing schools in the state.

And if you do the same terrible thing
more than 30 times in a row,

you're basically "Billy Joel's
Greatest Hits Volumes 2 And 3".

You may be thinking charters
were completely unmonitored,

but you would actually be wrong.

They're approved and overseen
by what are called "authorizers".

While some states sharply limit
who can be an authorizer,

Ohio allowed many different groups,
including non-profits, to do it.

I wanted to open the "John Oliver
Academy for Nervous Boys".

And let's say I had
a pre-existing non-profit,

called "Johnny's Kids".

That could potentially
have overseen my school.

And that basically happened.

Take the Richard Allen chain
of schools in Ohio,

whose president was
Jeanette Harris.

Overseen by Kids Count,
a nonprofit founded by Jeanette Harris,

which oversaw the schools as they
spent $1 million tax dollars

on management and consulting firms
founded by... Jeanette fucking Harris.

Harris denies a conflict of interest,

she claims she wasn't
involved in decision-making.

Maybe the schools just
chose Kids Count

because it had a proven
track record of great oversight.

So let's just check in on one
of the other schools they oversaw.

A local charter school padded
its attendance records,

resulting in more than
a million dollars in extra money.

State auditors interviewed
students and staff.

On any given day, there would only be
about thirty students in the building,

a fraction of the reported
459 enrolled there.

When an auditor looked into it,

they found Kids Count had done
"legal minimum oversight required".

Which I would argue suggests
a problem with the legal minimum.

Because 30 kids showed up and
the school claims they had 450.

Doesn't speak well
of an oversight group

calling itself "Kids Count".

Ohio has passed a new law to clean up
some of the problems,

but serious damage
has already been done.

There is one more way that charter
schools have been allowed to run wild.

We haven't even mentioned
online charters yet.

They serve 180 000 students

and even if they get the average
$7 000 per student,

that's over a billion dollars
going to cyber-charters annually.

Some have an attendance system
you would not believe.

kids aren't counted absent

until they have failed to log on
for five days in a row.

And some are never
required to attend class.

But the state still requires
the schools to report attendance.

So most just report 100%, even
though that's not what's going on.

That's crazy. You're giving kids
a box containing video games,

and long division and claiming:

"100 percent of them
chose the right one."

Some kids might need
online education,

but it has got to be monitored better

because one study found
students in online charters

lost the equivalent of 72 days
of learning in reading

and 180 days in math during the course
of a 180-day school year.

And 180 minus 180 is, as those
kids might put it, three.

Charter advocates will tell you that
are concerned about online schools.

And some states have better oversight
than the ones that we've seen.

Though, for the record,
some may even be worse.

One charter researcher told Ohio:

"Be very glad that you have Nevada,
so you are not the worst."

Which I believe is the motto
on Nevada state license plates.

The point is we don't even
have time to get into Nevada.

Advocates will argue these closings
show accountability in action.

Like in business,
bad schools close.

There's a problem, as one former
charter school employee explains.

This isn't a restaurant
that you just open up,

you serve your food, people
don't like it, you close it, move on.

This is education. Students are left
without a school to go to.

There needs to be some filter as
to who's opening up these schools.

The problem with letting the free
market decide when it comes to kids

is that kids change faster
than the market.

By the time it's obvious a school is
failing, futures may have been ruined.

So if we are going to treat
charter schools like "pizza shops",

we should monitor them at least
as well as we do pizzerias.

It's like the old saying:

give a kid a shitty pizza,
you fuck up their day.

Treat a kid like a shitty pizza,
you could fuck up their entire life.

And now this.

And now, one final second
of Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte

that encapsulates his personality,
career and worldview.

And finally tonight,
we turn to Donald Trump,

a racist voodoo doll
made of discarded cat hair.

Let me just say how truly sorry I am
to have to talk about him again.

I know I've done it a lot recently.

But we're going to be
off the air for a month

and there are some things
I need to say.

This week, Trump
continued to struggle in the polls,

his campaign director resigned
and it seems he's taking advice

from Roger Ailes, a sexually
rapacious hard-boiled egg.

And this feels like a fork
in the road for Trump.

He's either hitting bottom
and he'll rebound to victory,

or it's the beginning of the end,
so let's look at his options.

'Cause obviously,
losing would be disastrous.

His entire brand
is built around not doing that.

I know how to win. That's what
I've been doing all my life.

I don't do it unless I win.

I know how to win because
my whole life I've been winning.

My life
has been about winning.

He's like an alien attempting
to impersonate a human,

but his only research was watching
Charlie Sheen interviews.

Trump wouldn't be losing any election.
He'd be losing it to Hillary Clinton.

That wouldn't just be off-brand,
it would be brand-destroying.

And he knows it.

Wouldn't that be embarrassing,
to lose to crooked Hillary Clinton ?

Yes, exactly. It would be humiliating
to lose to a candidate

whose trustworthiness is doubted
by 60 percent of registered voters.

That's nearly two thirds.

Clinton is trusted by just one
of the John Mayer trio.

Insane, because by definition,
two of the John Mayer trio,

to some extent, trust John Mayer.

The other option is Trump resets,
comes from behind and wins.

And I would argue
that's even worse for him.

He actually has to run the country,
and that means

living in government housing,
conversing with fully-clothed women

and traveling in a plane that doesn't
even have his name on it.

He tried to seem more presidential
by apologizing

and distributing disaster relief
and he looked miserable.

And that's pretty much
all that being president is !

That is why I'd like
to address the rest of this segment

directly to Donald Trump.

I know you're watching, Donald,

because you watch everything
that's said about you.

I'm pretty sure you sleep
in a tanning bed

made out of TVs playing
cable news talking about you.

That is an actual photo
taken in an actual nightmare.

It seems that you have
two really bad options here.

If you keep going,
you'll spend the next 11 weeks

injecting poison into bloodstream
that'll take generations to remove

and denying the contest of ideas
a presidential campaign should be.

And after that, you're either going
to win or you're going to lose.

Both those scenarios
end pretty badly for you.

Which is why, Mr. Trump,
Donny, Doniel...

I would like to propose to you
a third option, and that is: drop out.

Simply drop out and tell America
this entire candidacy was a stunt,

a satire designed to expose
the flaws in the system.

You could actually make
a fairly decent case for that.

Although your campaign
was the political equivalent

of a bigoted clown's
blazing funeral pyre,

you have accidentally made upwards
of 4 good points during this campaign.

Last year, when you were criticized
for donating to Democrats, you said:

Before two months ago,
I gave to everybody.

When they call, I give.
When I need something from them

two years later, three years later,
I call them.

They are there for me.
And that's a broken system.

Any system that requires
phone calls to and from you

is completely shattered.

You are like the chaplain
at Disney jail:

if I'm talking to you at all,
something has gone horribly wrong.

But it is powerful hearing a candidate
expose our campaign finance system.

Just as it was powerful to watch
you expose the flaws of the media,

while still exploiting them.

They say that I've had $2 billion
worth of free airtime.

Free airtime comes because
of the controversies you've generated.

- Perhaps.
- Is that why you did it ?

It might be a little bit.

I can't even blame you for that.
You're essentially saying:

"you seem to like dumpster fires,
I'm a pile of oily trash and a match,"

"let's fucking dance."

That might be your wisest insight

since you encouraged your Twitter
followers to love thine enemy.

You didn't use those words.
What you said was:

"every time I speak of the haters
I do so with love and affection."

"They cannot help the fact
that they were born fucked up !"

But that sentiment was,
in its own way, Christlike.

You could even argue
you've effectively exposed the lengths

to which politicians will go
to appease their party's base.

Top Republicans refused to withdraw
their support for you,

even after you feuded
with gold star parents,

insinuated gun activists
could assassinate Hillary Clinton

and encouraged Russia
to hack your opponent's emails.

All these politicians
would have stuck by you

if you slapped the six year-old orphan
of a dead veteran with a giant blunt

while yelling "legalize it"
and eating a bald eagle burrito.

But perhaps most powerfully of all,
Mr. Trump, Don, Donathan...

You didn't just expose the flaws
in our political system...

You exposed the flaws in us.

How triumphant it would feel
to say on national television:

"I openly ran on a platform
of impossibly ignorant proposals"

"steeped in racial bigotry
and nobody stopped me..."

"In fact, you embraced me for it.
What the fuck was that about ?"

That would be one of the most
powerful political speeches.

If you drop out in order
to teach America a lesson,

you would not be a loser,
you would be a legend.

There'd be a federal holiday
in your honor,

called "Guy-Who-Decided
Not-To-Be-President's Day"

and it would be
the greatest day ever.

Sounds far-fetched. You're probably
wondering how it would all even work.

What if I told you there was
a foolproof instruction manual ?

You'd be interested, right ?

What if this manual was written
at the fifth-grade reading level ?

You'd be very interested, right ?
Guess what ?

We found this 1996 book for children
called "The Kid Who Ran For President"

and believe me:
this is basically about you.

It's the story of Judson Moon,
a somewhat bored classclown

who runs for president as a joke.

And some of his character traits
might ring a bell.

He refers to his potential spouse
as "The First Babe"

and he says "my job, as
a candidate for highest office,"

"is to come up with good quotes."

Which I'm sure
reminds you of someone.

I have the best words.


Judson Moon expressed his idea using
18 words, 23 syllables and a subclause

while you just said:
"I have the best words",

but the point is,
it's basically the same idea.

Like you, the kid soon realizes that
he can basically propose anything

and a segment of
the population will buy into it.

I know you are not much of a reader,
which is why we got Will Arnett

to record the book's description
of the kid's first campaign speech !

My first official act as president
of the United States

will be to abolish homework,
now and forever !

A huge roar of approval went up.
It was pandemonium.

I paused to allow them to calm down.
I didn't want to incite a riot.

No more homework !

Chanted the school as one.
The dumbest guys seemed happy,

fist bumping me and saying
stuff like: "Awesome, dude."

You hear that ? If you replace
the words "no more homework"

with "build that wall", that's
every single one of your rallies.

But wait: there's more.

The kid realizes he's riding
something he can't control,

and he bemoans the fact he could
"tell supporters the Earth was flat".

Does that sound familiar ?

I could stand on 5th Avenue and shoot
somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.

Come on, the parallels
are fucking uncanny here !

This fictional 12-year-old boy sounds
vastly more reasonable than you,

an actual 70-year-old man,
but you get my point here.

Here is where we get
to the stuff that you can actually use,

because despite the kid's efforts
to sabotage himself, he's elected

and that is when, shocked and
disgusted by his fellow Americans,

he resigns
and delivers the following speech,

which you could deliver
word for word.

I have a question
for the grown-ups of America.

Are you out of your minds ?

Are you expecting me
to enforce the constitution ?

I never even read it. I was absent
from school that day.

You want me commander-in-chief
of the armed forces ?

What if somebody attacked the US ?
Would you really want me in charge ?

America must be in really bad shape
if you elected me president.

Get it together and find
qualified people to run this country

or we'll all be in big trouble.

That is a perfectly Trumpean address:
it's a negation of responsibility,

an implication of everyone else's
stupidity, and it's a threat !

If you steal it, you'll be passing off
someone else's speech as your own,

which I know is kind of
a "thing" for your campaign.

This book is your only way out from
two equally unappealing scenarios.

I'm even willing to help you out,
with a personal sacrifice.

'Cause I have never wanted you
to appear on this show.

I believe I have said you will
never be invited here.

But I'm willing to invite you,

if you are willing to deliver
that exact speech to the nation.

And to make you feel at home,
we've even built that weird,

black and gold podium that you used
at the Republican convention.

Remember ? The creepy one
that looks like the podium

the Empire would use to announce
it's going to strike back.

So, Mr. Trump, Don, Dondrew...

Back in February, I stood here
and I called you

a two-bit bullshit artist
conning America to help himself.

Please, prove me wrong

and show yourself to be
a three-bit bullshit artist

conning America to help America.

Embrace your destiny, as the real-life
kid who ran for president,

for all of our sakes.

That is our show. We'll be back
September 25th. Good night !