"Waiting for Superman" Fuels Debate Over Public Educational System

In this film publicity image released by Paramount Pictures, Francisco, right, and his mother are shown in a scene from, "Waiting for 'Superman'." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures)

In this film publicity image released by Paramount Pictures, Francisco, right, and his mother are shown in a scene from, "Waiting for Superman." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures)
NEW YORK (CBS) Davis Guggenheim, the man who brought forth the 2006 Oscar-winning documentary an "Inconvenient Truth" with Al Gore, ignited a debate over his new film, "Waiting for Superman," which highlights the failures of the country's public school system. 

In the film, which opened in New York City and Los Angeles Friday, Guggenheim shines a light on American education and traces the stories of five children whose futures of getting into charter schools are set on the chances of winning a lottery.

While set against a backdrop of looming statistics, "Waiting for Superman" also portrays teachers' unions as a major impediment to kids' success in school, stirring controversy within viewers and education groups.

In a letter to the press, Randi Weingarten, the American Teacher's Union president, wrote the film portrays "teachers and teachers unions as the villains, and charter schools as heroes ready to save the day. The problem is that these caricatures are more fictional than factual."

Meanwhile, a few viewers of the "Oprah Winfrey" show were fired up after the talk show queen dedicated an entire episode to the film last week.

"The union's sole purpose is keeping bad teachers teaching," a former teacher said. "In my opinion, the people who are complaining about the show are the bad teachers."

Despite its limited release over the weekend, the controversy surrounding the film has seemed to have helped box-office sales. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Waiting for Superman" grossed $141,000 in "four theaters for one of the best per-screen averages ($35,250) of the year."

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