‘Abbott Elementary’ Episode 19 Recap: Charter Schools Are Evil

For the past few weeks, Abbott Elementary has sprinkled in undertones of an ongoing crisis. Amid blazing fires and lovers who won’t confess their feelings to one another, a larger dilemma faces the entire team at Abbott: What’s going on with the charter school trying to take the reins of the public school?

This week’s episode, “Festival,” faces that issue head on. There’s no getting around Legendary Charter Schools at this point. Our beloved teachers receive the worst news at the beginning of the episode: Legendary has filed to seize control of Abbott Elementary, effective immediately, should the school board approve the motion.

Anyone who knows anything about school boards knows that they usually don’t have the teachers best interest in mind when making these decisions. School boards aren’t made up of teachers, but rather community members who want to vote on educational matters—a teacher from another district could sit on the board in the area where they live, but usually, these boards are made up of regular community members.

This is all to say: The Abbott team may have no hope in defending their territory. Though the series doesn’t spend too much time complaining about the school board, Abbott sheds a much-needed light on the hopelessness teachers often face when decisions are made without their input. Most of the parents are against this decision (although, as we see later on, they’re too busy to have time to fight it), the teachers will lose their jobs, and the kids will suffer—all because under a dozen school board members make the call. Thank goodness Abbott took the time to recognize the flawed system.

What would a charter school takeover look like for Abbott? The principal would be the first to go. Aware of this fact, Ava (Janelle James) applies for a new job working as a social media manager for Legendary in the first few scenes of the episode. Then, they’ll go for the weakest link, least-tenured teachers. Say goodbye to Janine (Quinta Brunson), Jacob (Chris Perfetti), and Gregory (Tyler James Williams).

Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), however, is safe. She actually taught the charter school leader Draemond (Leslie Odom Jr.), who returns in this episode to further stake his claim at Abbott. Still, Barbara is against the idea of going charter—she fights alongside the other teachers, who fear for the future of the Philadelphia children more than their own jobs.

So, after receiving the news about the charter school, the teachers attempt to rally the community around the matter. Janine and Gregory get parents to sign a petition, but they’re too busy to take interest. In order to save the school, the teachers agree to trick parents into signing the petition while hosting a big festival. Ava “promises” to get Jazmine Sullivan to perform. Jacob agrees to take part in a dunk tank.

Though we won’t spoil the ultimate twist in the charter episode—it’s glorious, please go watch it—it’s worth noting that this area of conflict has been a wonderful addition to the sophomore season of Abbott Elementary. The teachers face minor issues (no erasers, TikTok trends) on a day-to-day basis, but the charter dilemma has been a great way for Season 2 to be anchored in a larger threat to the public schooling system.

And as a result, the chaos has brought the teachers together. Barbara and Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) no longer look down on Janine and Jacob—instead, they’re all in this together. Plus, the scenes where the entire cast films together (usually in the library, in one big chaotic meeting) are some of the best in the show. This episode is mostly made up of these big group scenes, where Mr. Johnson (William Stanford Davis) adds wild interjections and Ava proves why she’s the worst, albeit most hilarious.

Along with Janine’s sister, as well as the slow burn between Janine and Gregory, this charter school plot has been a fantastic throughline for a stellar second season of Abbott Elementary. It’s brought together our favorite characters and seen them (hopefully) solve a crisis as one fortified group. Still, who knows what issues Abbott Elementary will face next?

Abbott Elementary will go on a brief hiatus for the rest of the month, but will return for its final batch of Season 2 episodes on April 5.

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