Samantha Bee decided to go on the attack against school choice this week during her show, Full Frontal. Based on the first clip she played during her school choice rant, it was clear that the president’s support for parents having educational options for their children has really gotten under her skin. And she’s not alone—if the Trump administration has shown us one thing, it is that even when he’s right on an issue, his most passionate opponents won’t admit it. They do not subscribe to the “even a broken clock is right twice a day” philosophy.
But Samantha Bee is a hypocrite on this issue. She does not send her own children to their zip code assigned school. She made a choice to get them into a school that is so selective with its admissions, it keeps the “holistic” admission criterion under wraps. According to NYC education consultant Alina Adams, “they have their completely own independent rubric which they don’t have to release or justify. Nobody knows how kids get into that school.” But whatever it is, somehow her children along with the children of Cynthia Nixon and Louis C.K. managed to crack the admission code and secure one of 55 spots. 350 children applied.
Now, Samantha would likely defend her uninformed and inaccurate commentary by saying that she at least sends her kids to a “public” school. But that would ring really hollow because she indicts charter schools in her meant-to-be-funny diatribe and they too are public. And while she waxes poetic about how there is so much more oversight in traditional public schools and not in charter schools or private schools, she seems to forget that the admissions process of her own kids’ schools is literally a secret. She belittles and mocks Florida for its schools—guess she missed the memo that Florida was the only state to show significant improvement in math at both grade levels and in 8th grade reading on the most recent NAEP testing. It was also clear from her error laden monologue that she does not know that Florida has school choice programs specifically designed to serve students with special needs.
Samantha Bee did not mention student outcomes once—she told jokes about charter schools in strip malls and exhibited outright bigotry in her portrayal of faith-based schools but never once did she wonder aloud if students were actually learning to read. Spoiler alert, most aren’t. Think she knows that 90 percent of black boys in 8th grade who attend traditional public schools don’t read on grade level? Somehow I doubt it. Brutal truth has never been part of her schtick.
One thing is clear: Samantha Bee is decidedly on team status quo because it is working just fine for her. She sees other people’s children as widget-like funding sources and does not believe that they should be able to take tax dollars with them to a school that better suits their needs.
This is unsurprising—affluent white parents, especially “progressive” celebrities, have long subscribed to the “choice for me, not for thee” school of thought. Rather than lowering the ladder back down to those who most need it, they pull the ladder up behind them. They opportunity hoard, ensuring that their children are educationally well situated while using their outsized power and influence to deny access to the families most in need of options.
Ms. Bee conveniently left out the voices of parents whose children are zoned to chronically underperforming schools. She also failed to mention that parents overwhelmingly support school choice and that support is rising. It’s likely that actual data never makes it into her echo chamber (we know how ideologues feel about empirical evidence) but surely her show employs researchers, right? We all get that she wants to tell her audience what they want to hear but she may have to rethink her dismissal of ‘fake news’ allegations since she literally peddles in it for a living.
A recent RealClear Opinion Research poll shows a spike in support for school choice among parents whose children currently attend public school. Since April, that support has jumped from 67 percent to 77 percent.
Samantha Bee just doesn’t happen to be in that 77 percent majority—but why would she be? She’s happy with her perch as a parent who has been able to choose a school for her kids. She just doesn’t want other parents to have the same self-determination that comes with having options. God forbid, they choose a school of which Samantha Bee doesn’t approve.
I think Derrell Bradford sums it up well.