Quinton Brunson is the writer, producer and star of the award-winning TV series “Abbott Elementary.” Abbott Elementary is a comedy about an urban elementary school, realistically depicting life in a Philadelphia public school. It is a funny, joyful celebration of life in public schools and a song of praise to public school teachers. No matter how silly they are at times, they are heroes!

In season 2, the show turned to the topic of charter schools, because a big charter chain wants to take over Abbott. The staff is mortified. The staff lays bare the unfair practices of the charter school (e.g. pushing out kids they don’t want), and the series lays bare how underfunded Abbott is (in contrast to the charter school, which is equipped with the best of everything).

Jeanne Allen, founder and chief executive officer of the Center for Education Reform, lashed out on Twitter against Quinta Brunson for her negative portrayal of charters when Quinta had gone to charter schools “her entire education” in Philadelphia and had previously praised them.

Quinta responded on Twitter: “you’re wrong and bad at research. I only attended a charter for high school. My public elementary school was transitioned to charter over a decade after I left. I did love my high school. That school is now defunct- which happens to charters often.”

She immediately added: “Loving something doesn’t mean it can’t be critiqued. Thanks for watching the show :)” (Her quotes appear in the article linked above.)

Hundreds of tweets from Quinta’s passionate followers excoriated Allen, supported Quinta and defended her right to say whatever she wanted.

At one point, Jeanne Allen gratuitously claimed “Money talks,” implying that Quinta was paid off by someone to criticize charter schools. On these pages, it’s not surprising to hear a charter lobbyist jeer that critics must have been paid off by the teachers’ unions. But Allen didn’t spell it out, possibly because it was so preposterous on its face.

Quinta’s fans jumped all over the ”she was bought” idea; one said that this Allen person, with not quite 8,000 followers, must be “clout catching”—that is—trying to grab attention by attacking a celebrity—by going after the great Quinta Brunson, who has more 800,000 followers.

It is more than funny reading Jeanne Allen chastise the brilliant, creative Quinta Brunson for taking aim at charter schools because “money talks.” The Center for Education Reform is handsomely funded by conservative billionaires like the Walton Foundation and Jeffrey Yass, as well as billionaire Wall Street charter suporters. Yes indeed, money talks.

The Center for Education Reform serves the goal of right-wing billionaires like Jeff Yass to destroy public education, even though he is a graduate of New York City public schools. Yass funds election deniers and candidates who want to ban critical race theory in the schools. The school-choice lobby says they are deeply devoted to children of color, yet the heavy hitters are funding the candidates and astroturf parent groups that want to ban teaching Black history. Hypocrites!

Since Jeanne is so concerned about hypocrisy, she might ask Jeff Yass why he wants to destroy the very schools that educated him. Why doesn’t he endow state-of-the-art public schools in New York City and Philadelphia to show his gratitude? The great singer Tony Bennett endowed the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, why not a Jeffrey Yass High School for Financial Success and Ethics?

This contretemps has not worked in favor of the charter lobby. Attacking a beloved TV star is a bad idea. Even TIME magazine used the controversy to explain the shortcomings of charter schools.

For teachers around the U.S., charter schools are a constant concern, beyond an episode of television. They find relief, both comic and real, in Abbott—as well as tangible education and information.

“There’s this myth that charter schools provide more opportunity or their graduation rates are better, but that’s just because they exclude kids,” says Brooklyn public school teacher Frank Marino, who formerly worked at a charter school. Watching Abbott “felt so cathartic, because I was like, yes, it was a public platform where those myths are being busted by parents….”

Abbott Elementary has brought Kathryn Vaughn, an art teacher at a public school in Tennessee, and her husband back to appointment viewing TV like it’s the ‘90s. Vaughn loves the show, but says she was surprised to see it tackle charter schools, a $49.5 billion industry with heavy political sway. She appreciated how the most recent episode hands the power to the parents….

In many states, public schools are mandated to have arts education in each building, and tenure in the arts for someone like Vaughn is possible. Charter schools, however, have more leeway: Some, like Addington Elementary in Abbott, can choose to bring in an art teacher a couple of days a week, often subcontracted out from a company.

“Charter schools make me incredibly uneasy,” Vaughn says. “They don’t have to offer their employees tenure. They don’t have to hire certified staff to teach. So if you’re sending your child to a charter school expecting a great arts education, you might not even be taught by certified staff.”

Abbott Elementary is set in West Philadelphia and Vaughn’s school is in western Tennessee, but no matter where you are in public education right now, she says, you know: the push for privatization is huge.

“That’s really the big connection between urban poor and rural poor, like I’m in, is the funding,” Vaughn says. “Urban schools almost are a little sexier. They get more of the money than us in the rural, poor areas. But we’re all behind where we should be with funding.”

A few episodes ago, at the fictional Pennsylvania Educational Conference for the South East Area (PECSA), Jacob (Chris Perfetti)—a well-meaning history teacher—is hanging out with a group of teachers from Addington Elementary. One of them, Summer (Carolyn Gilroy), tries to convince him to switch schools, telling him, “We’re all about focusing on the kids who have the best chance of making it out.”

“Out?” Jacob asks. “Out of what?”

The scene hit home for Marjahn Finlayson, a climate change educator, researcher, and activist who previously worked at a charter high school in Hartford, Connecticut. While teachers there often took a personal interest in their work, she says, there was little trust in the community.

“In the PECSA conference episode, Addington teachers are talking to Jacob about, like, ‘Oh, we take the best kids, and we try to get them out of the ‘hood,’” Finlayson says. “And Jacob is like, ‘Why are you taking them out?’ That was how the feeling was for me.”

Finlayson noticed disparities in resources between public and charter schools, regardless of the quality and dedication of teachers.

“That’s why it’s easier for these schools like Legendary Schools to get into an inner city space, like where Abbott is, where Hartford is,” she says. “It’s easy to prey on these communities that have a need, based on the fact that public school funding isn’t going to this space, but it’s going to another.”

One of Abbott’s arguments against charter schools is that, as Barbara grimly puts it, “They don’t see students. They see scores.” At Finlayson’s former charter high school, one student was repeatedly pressured into applying to college, despite wanting to pursue a trade career.

“And it wasn’t even the fact that she needed to go, it was just that she had to apply,” Finlayson says. “Because, ‘We have a 100% college acceptance rate, and we’re not going to mess with that number.’”

Note to Jeanne Allen: Don’t attack a beloved celebrity. The blowback will not be good for your cause.