I watched the latest episode of the award-winning “Abbott Elementary” show a few days ago and was pleased to see that the show depicted the predatory nature of many urban charters, as well as their super-powerful rich funders.

The teachers at Abbott, a local public school, heard the rumor that the local charter chain wants to take over their school. They are alarmed. They have heard that the teachers are forced to teach scripted lessons. They know that the charter won’t acccept all the neighborhood children. A mother shows up and asks if Abbott will take her son Josh back: he was ejected by the local charter school, Addington, for not having the right stuff. The teachers say, “That means that his test scores were not high enough for the charter.”

The principal, probably the least qualified educator at Abbott, says that turning charter will mean that the school will be renovated and get more resources. What’s wrong with that? She does not realize that if the school goes charter, she will be the first one fired.

The Philadelphia Inquirer wondered if the popular TV show was taking a swipe at Jeffrey Yass, who has donated millions to charter schools. Yass, an investor, is worth $33 billlion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Abbott Elementary, the ABC comedy about a fictional Philadelphia public school, took what sounded like a shot at Pennsylvania’s richest man in last week’s episode while knocking charter school backers.

At least one Jeff Yass fan is not laughing.

» READ MORE: Who is Jeff Yass, Pennsylvania’s billionaire investor and political funder?

In the episode, teachers worry a charter school operator might take over their school.

“They take our funding, not to mention the private money from wealthy donors with ulterior motives,” said Sheryl Lee Ralph, who plays teacher Barbara Howard, (and is married to State Sen. Vincent Hughes.)

Yass, a Main Line billionaire investor, has spent millions to support charter schools and political action committees that push for the election of candidates who share his goals.

Jeanne Allen, founder of the Center for Education Reform and director of The Yass Foundation for Education, was not amused when folks on Twitter linked that line to Yass.

She tweeted: “It’s pathetic when fewer than 20% of Philadelphia students can even read, write or spell at grade level that there’s a show on television that has the nerve to criticize the schools that succeed, and the people that help them. This has TEACHERS UNION written all over it.”

Actually, 36% of the city’s students scored proficient or advanced on the state standardized English language arts exam in the latest results available. That’s not great. But its certainly not “fewer than 20%.”

Allen, in an email to Clout, called the line a “gratuitous slap against people with wealth” and complained that this was not the first “hollow, evidence-lacking shot at charter schools.”

She also said she has not watched the episode and does not plan to.

Quinta Brunson created Abbott Elementary, inspired by her mom, a kindergarten teacher, and her experiences in a West Philly public school. An instant sensation, the award-winning show is in its second season, with a third planned.

“Abbott Elementary” is a delightful, lighthearted show about life in a typical urban elementary school. I recommend it. It’s a shame that Jeanne Allen refuses to watch it. Undoubtedly she would hate it because it shows a public school in a positive light, where teachers deal with their personal and professional problems and where students are lively and engaged.

It’s not surprising that she hates it because it undermines her core message that all public schools are failing. The fact that she misrepresented the city’s test scores is also not surprising. The Inquirer felt it necessary to correct her.

The fact is that a 36% proficiency rate is impressive for a city with high poverty rates. As I have said again and again, “proficiency” on the NAEP tests does not mean “grade level” or “average.” It means mastery of the material. It is equivalent to an A.

As for Jeffrey Yass, Jeanne Allen has good reason to jump to his defense. She administers the “Yass Prize” for charter school excellence, which awards millions to successful charter schools. Earlier this year, one of the the Yass Prizes was awarded to a charter school with a 100% college acceptance rate but abysmal test scores. A large number of colleges accept every applicant. Poor vetting by Jeanne Allen’s Center for Education Reform.

This is Wikipedia on Jeff Yass’s political contributions, which are tilted far-right:

Yass became a member of the board of directors of the libertarian Cato Institute in 2002[12][13] and now is a member of the executive advisory council.[14] In 2015, Yass donated $2.3 million to a Super PAC supporting Rand Paul‘s presidential candidacy.[15] In 2018 he donated $3.8m to the Club for Growth, and $20.7m in 2020.[16]

Yass and his wife, Janine Coslett, are public supporters of school choice, with Coslett writing a 2017 opinion piece for the Washington Examiner in support of then-incoming Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos‘s views at school choice.[17]

In November 2020, it was reported that Yass had donated $25.3 million, all to Republican candidates, and was one of the ten largest political donors in the US.[1]

In March 2021, an investigation in Haaretz said that Jeff Yass and Arthur Dantchik were behind a large portion of the donations to the Kohelet Policy Forum in Israel.[18][19]

In November 2021, he donated $5 million to the School Freedom Fund, a PAC that runs ads for Republican candidates running in the 2022 election cycle nationwide.[20]

In June 2022 Propublica claims Yass has “avoided $1 billion in taxes” and “pouring his money into campaigns to cut taxes and support election deniers”.[21]

When will Democrats wake up to the fact that charters and vouchers are the tools of the Destroy Public Educatuon movement?

Allen is right to avoid seeing Abbott Elementary. It is definitely off-message for the charter lobby, which insists that public schools are of necessity “failing schools.”