The Oscars are over and I wonder where the celebrities are when it comes to supporting public schools. Especially when so many dislike President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, you would think at least one movie star would champion democratic public schools.
Hello out there! Hey Hollywood and beyond! All of you who love your old teachers…we need you!
Many movie stars went to public schools and took part in their drama programs. A lot of actors thanked their teachers last night. So where are they in support of their own public schools?
It would be nice if we had some actors and celebrities who backed public schools. Due to their popularity and visibility, their words are powerful and influential.
But most celebrities don’t seem to understand what is happening with school privatization.
Like so many people, I admire Meryl Streep. She’s a great actress and seems like a down to earth person. Many were impressed that she spoke out at the People’s Choice Awards.
Educators were especially happy to hear her say, “I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey.”
What does it mean we wondered? Is she going to wave the flag in favor of saving our schools?
A check on Streep’s background involving education, shows that she has donated to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (Scholastic is a publishing company), and she gave books to the Segue Institute for Learning, a charter school in Central Falls, Rhode Island.*
This is well-meaning, but it is not really supportive of public schools.
The Segue Institute for Learning advertises itself as a community school, but it runs by its own rules. If students and/or parents don’t follow the school’s requirements it appears clear there is no place at the school for the students.
They favor school choice which is against traditional public schooling. School choice is what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is all about.
No real public school can or should reject students. All students are welcome and it is why public schools often struggle to help students with the greatest challenges.
Meryl Streep is unlikely aware of this. My guess is she doesn’t understand the war on public schools by corporations—a war that has been going on for 30 years.
Celebrities most likely don’t understand that public schools have struggled with insufficient funding for years– since the Reagan administration!
Viola Davis, another popular and fine actress, won a well-deserved Oscar last night. She also has a background involving public schools. She played a starring role in the 2012 movie Won’t Back Down which was about parents fighting for options to choose their schooling—charter schools.
Most charter schools drain funds from traditional public schools and are not accountable to the public. President Trump favors charter schools.
The movie involved the Los Angeles group Parent Revolution, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, which pushed for such parent options through “parent trigger” laws.
It is also a movie that is critical of the teachers’ union. It contained damaging falsehoods—like saying the union would not permit teachers to do extra work with students.
Davis, like Streep, was a huge fan of Hillary Clinton as demonstrated in this video.
Yet, Hillary Clinton was endorsed immediately during the primary by the teachers’ unions. Both the AFT and NEA had presidents that were her biggest fans throughout the election!
Won’t Back Down, on the other hand, could be used as a poster ad for President Trump’s current education secretary —Betsy DeVos—a cheerleader for choice.
Which Celebrities Support Public Schools?
Matt Damon showed up at the 2011 Save Our Schools march, and he was vocal about his support of public schools and teachers. He has backed several documentaries about schools, but he has other issues that he works on–like water. No one can blame him for that. Damon’s mother, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, is a popular and well-respected early childhood educator.
John Oliver of the HBO Program Last Week Tonight also made a splash a while back criticizing charter schools.
Taylor Swift has donated to New York City’s public schools.
Dolly Parton created an organization that provides free books to children.
Eddie Van Halen started a nonprofit to collect instruments for poor public school music programs.
But I don’t know of any celebrities who carry a torch for real public schools. It would be nice to see that change, especially since under President Trump our democratic public schools are more in danger than ever.
If you have any celebrity scoop involving movie stars or celebrities that support public schools in any way, let me know and I will add them to the list.
Below is also a list of celebrities who started their own charter schools which are not really public schools. I’m sure there are others that could be added to that list as well.
* Central Falls High School grabbed national headlines when it fired all of its teachers, counselors, and a principal back in 2010 because of poor test scores and graduation rates.
The state education commissioner at the time was Deborah Gist—a Broad Academy graduate. Eli Broad is a billionaire, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He promotes a charter system in Los Angeles and around the country. Broad academy graduates are known for moving school districts towards that end.
The fired teachers were later rehired by the district, but the firings left Central Falls High School badly tarnished.
Here is a list of celebrities who have started their own charter schools. Charter schools drain funds from traditional public schools and many are not accountable to the public.