Abbott Elementary, an American TV show based on underfunded public schools in America, took the world by storm. While premiering towards the end of 2021, it has already touched the hearts of millions and quite evidently so, winning three Golden Globes at the beginning of this year. The show is a lighthearted comedy due to its mockumentary style of comedy. One can compare it to The Office or Parks and Rec.
With an amazing and very talented cast and a realistic look into the school system in America, it has also raised many of the real-life issues many of these schools face. The comedy show brings a spotlight on several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and a call for Quality education, as well as Good Health and Wellbeing for all students. Abbott Elementary shows us that passionate teachers, regardless of the school's circumstances, can accomplish so much to provide a stable environment for students that go to lesser privileged schools.
But what about schools where there’s neither? Do those kids not deserve a quality education and good health and well-being?
In its very first episode, Abbott Elementary delves into the issue of inadequate funding. The school's textbooks are outdated, prompting Janine Teagues, a new, enthusiastic, and committed teacher, to add pictures of the most recent U.S. presidents to ensure that the students are kept abreast of current events. Due to the malfunctioning toilets, a student opts to relieve himself on the classroom rug instead.
To add, there is not enough money to hire teacher aides, for the teachers that have larger and more disruptive classes. While the show makes light of these issues, being a comedy of course, the reality is that many public schools in America are funded unequally across the board. According to a 2022 report done by the Economic Policy Institute, an American non-profit think tank, schools in America as of 2017 in high-poverty districts receive 14 per cent less per student in resources than students in low-poverty districts.
COVID-19 highlighted the inequalities within the school system even further. Due to low funding for public schools, there is then a lack of emergency funding when there is a sudden need for extra money. According to a report done by Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit think tank that researches issues within America, “COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, our subpar level of preparation to cope with emergencies or other unexpected needs reflects another aspect of underinvestment.”
Schools with a lack of funding and emergency funds had a much harder time dealing with school closures and online learning because many of these kids simply did not have access to resources such as the internet which Abbott Elementary reflects upon. Not only does this show the discrepancies in regards to the different qualities of education, but also shows the disregard and safety of a child’s good health and wellbeing.
The second season’s episode titled, Wrong Delivery, reflects on the differences between charter schools and public schools. Charter schools don’t need to follow the same regulations that are provided by different levels of government according to Libby Nelson, a policy editor for Vox. They also have more flexibility in setting curriculum, staff, school hours and rules. While charter schools are publicly funded, they are run in an independent manner, usually by companies.
When a wrong delivery, as the title implies, sets the teachers out to return a package to a charter school in the local area, we see some of these key differences between the two schools. In order to create a well-established charter school that attracts parents, and staff alike, there needs to be competition. One of those strategies includes creating a sense of having smarter students, by raising higher test scores, “For those charters that are successful, the high scores come at a cost, starting with the exclusion of students and families that might not help achieve the goal,” explains Peter Greene, a senior contributor in education for Forbes. If charter schools create a higher standard in education by excluding children who don’t fit certain criteria, possibly posing the question: are the schools really creating a higher standard?
Abbott Elementary does a great job of showing issues in schools across America, making it easy to understand its audience while also shining a light on more of the deeper-rooted issues. There is no simple one size fits all solution especially when it comes to something so important, and impactful for the future of the country.