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Wal-Mart Heirs Commit $1 Billion in Five Years to Continue Backing Nation’s Charter Schools

Wal-Mart Heirs Commit $1 Billion in Five Years to Continue Backing Nation’s Charter Schools

The Walton Family Foundation, a foundation run by the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, has announced it will be committing $1 billion over the next five years to help new and existing charter schools throughout the country.

The newly announced commitment will add onto the $385 million the foundation has already spent on charter schools in poor communities since getting involved in 1997, says the Christian Science Monitor.

The six Walmart heirs, according to Mother Jones, had a net worth worth more than 42% of American families combined in 2012.  

The foundation avidly supports charter schools, believing that families should "have more options...and that it should be easier for families to learn about them.”

In addition to helping charter schools, part of the new funding will also go to research tracking success and failures of the movement. This research is particularly important because not everyone in education is yet sold on the benefits of charter schools over traditional public schooling.

One skeptic, "Kim Anderson, the senior director of the Center for Advocacy and Research at the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, said charter schools have mixed results and suggested the foundation could give money to public school districts directly,” the article said.

And according to Prospect.org, the Walton Family Foundation has had a hand in kick-starting one in four charter schools around the country, but references a scathing report about the foundation’s K-12 philanthropy from the American Federation of Teachers.

"At the Walton Family Foundation the primary driver of school quality is supposed to be competition fueled by choice—i.e., growth of the market. Sadly, extensive research efforts (many of them funded by WFF) on the academic impact of public charter schools have suggested that after 20 years there is little across-the-board improvement to show for it,” the report reads.

"Under the guise of ‘choice’ to improve schools for low-income children, WFF has supported the unregulated growth of a privatized education industry— quantity over quality, and ‘freedom' over regulation. It’s been lucrative for some, but a disaster for many of the nation’s most vulnerable students and school districts,” it continues.

The entirety of the highly critical report can be read in its entirety here

Despite the criticism, the foundation defends its K-12 endeavors as helping to develop “pipelines of talent,” said Marc Sternberg, director of education philanthropy for the foundation.

"People in poverty need high-performing schools," Sternberg said. "Our goal is that all families ... have better schools. To be the rising tide to lift all boats,” he said.

Read the full story.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

1/15/2016

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