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A $100,000 prize to charter school that best counters comic John Oliver's attack

Comic John Oliver’s blistering monologue about charter schools that rip off students and taxpayers continues to rankle advocates of the popular education model. The video has drawn more than 5 million views on YouTube since it aired eight days ago.

But it's also drawn fire. Now, it has inspired a contest for the best video rebuttal to the comic's rant on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight.”

From the Center for Education Reform:

The Center for Education Reform 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 nationally. A panel of judges will review all entries and select one 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.’ 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, go here.



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Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.