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Walmart sign on store.
StudentsFirst has been having a rough week, what with the bad publicity around their choice of one of the authors of Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" bill as "reformer of the year." The organization repudiated the bill in response, but didn't disown the legislator. In the meantime they've been blasted by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and many Democrats nationally who are realizing just how poisonous Michelle Rhee's agenda is. But it's also been a good week for StudentsFirst financially: The Walton Family Foundation is donating $8 million over two years. Sorry, not donating. "Investing."

Think about that for a minute. When the Walmart heirs take a break from paying workers so little they qualify for food stamps and refusing to pay Bangladeshi contractors enough to have fire extinguishers in their factories, their philanthropic agenda is right in line with the Michelle Rhee education policy agenda. This isn't a first, either; $8 million over two years represents an increase in the Walmart investment in StudentsFirst, but the Waltons have already been a substantial source of money, giving $3 million to StudentsFirst since late 2010. StudentsFirst is also only one of many corporate education policy groups the Waltons have backed to the tune of $1 billion so far. Just what might a family whose vast wealth comes from low-wage labor and fierce anti-unionism like so much about so-called education reform? There's the obvious effort to bust teachers unions. But there's more than that. As I wrote last year:

Education is a labor issue because it's how we train children to someday be workers, determining many of the conditions under which young adults enter the workforce. It's a labor issue because school funding represents an investment, or a failure to invest, in the mass of people. Abandoning them as children, whether by underfunding the schools they attend or putting corporate profits first, is basically a guarantee they'll face worse as adults.
Test-driven education and a system in which some schools and some kids are favored investments while others are treated as disposable is a perfect setup for a Walmart economy, in which six Waltons have as much money as 30 percent of Americans. By bringing corporate profit ever more into the schools in the form of crappy privatized school lunches or companies that are paid both for tests and for test prep materials, kids become accustomed to the idea that profit matters more than anything, an idea many will carry into their adult working lives.

And StudentsFirst is increasingly blatant about the fact that, for it and its Walton overlords, this agenda comes before anything else. It comes at the expense of gay kids, not just in Tennessee but in Michigan, where StudentsFirst spent $70,000 to defend a gay-baiting state representative facing recall. It comes at the expense of immigrant kids. Shoot, in the immediate wake of Newtown, it took public pressure to get StudentsFirst to come out against a Michigan bill allowing concealed carry in schools. The group that claims to put students first at first had no position—because really, it's not about students. It's about breaking teachers unions and privatizing education, and everything else along the way is irrelevant.

Scott Wooledge has more discussion of the Walton contribution to StudentsFirst.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 11:16 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  $8M is symbolic. It buys you nothing. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  My own cynical belief is that this newfound (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, Eric Nelson, Mostel26

    zeal for edumacation is simply  Gravy Train Citizens United To Make Money. The only goal is to free up those public dollars and put them into the private pockets of the charters, non-profit or not, and their owners, suppliers, vendors, venture capitalists et al.

    And we will never be privy to the non-compete contracts, the crony leases, the 500% percent mark-ups, the bribes, the embezzlements, the nepotism, and all the other great frauds and swindles that will arise from this privatization of public education BECAUSE WE HAVE NO JOURNALISTS.

    Of course the greatest swindle will be to the (sob!) children and their education that they profess to care so much about. The real desire is to produce compliant cogs for the corporatist machine.

    Fearless prediction - these privatizers will at some point focus on finding ways to disallow home schooling because those will be precious dollars escaping from their money vacuum.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 11:34:27 AM PDT

  •  Your kids can go to a Walmart school (9+ / 0-)

    work in a Walmart while they go to a Walmart college, then come back to work in Walmart until they go to a Walmart hospital and get buried in a Walmart owned cemetery.

    Because freedom.

    bangs head into desk repeatedly

    Regulate banks, not vaginas

    by MinistryOfTruth on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 11:35:28 AM PDT

  •  We are so NOT surprised... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koosah, Eric Nelson

    I may have to read Scott's diary later. I can only take so much of this validation stuff at one time.

    "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

    by Ginny in CO on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 11:48:40 AM PDT

  •  previously blogged today (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    and I point this out only because it's cool that someone beat you to it:

    Of course, I really like that you also covered it.

  •  Wal-Mart seriously could do quite a lot for (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, Mostel26, judyms9

    education in creating sustainable, quality conditions for its workers.

    Every time they have a worker with kids on irregular shift work, changing schedules constantly and unpredictably, they are hurting education.

    Every family that contains a Wal-Mart worker and is below the poverty line is unable to properly support their children's education.

    Probably every family with a Wal-Mart retail worker is eligible for free and reduced lunch.

    They could do far more for education by investing their $8m back into the business and providing regular-full time work schedules for however many workers they can.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 03:50:44 PM PDT

    •  Recced to the maximum. Failing to pay a living (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      wage and jerking employees' hours around is totally anti-family and anti-education.  Eight million is sofa change to the Waltons so I'm not impressed.  I shop only mom-and-pop shops and local independents.  I make a point of snickering whenever someone mentions Walmart.  I am saddened that anyone has to work for them.

      Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

      by judyms9 on Wed May 01, 2013 at 04:46:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The agenda of StudentsFirst is to enrich & promote (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, Mostel26

    Michelle Rhee.

    Whatever it has to do to meet that goal is what it does.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 03:51:45 PM PDT

  •  This is why we must tax the crap out of the rich. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mostel26, judyms9

    When they are allowed to accumulate vast wealth, they tend to use it for schemes like this, to undermine democracy.

    I'm for an estate tax rate of 100% on anything over, say, a couple of million.

    Maybe a 100% income tax on anything over a million dollars a year would help, too.

    •  Double that tax for heirs who inherit what was (0+ / 0-)

      earned by the previous generation.  Pop Walton made the dough, not this generation.  Tax unearned income at a higher rate because, well, it's too much like intergenerational welfare because these guys didn't earn it.

      Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

      by judyms9 on Wed May 01, 2013 at 04:48:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  no profits off little kids test scores. PERIOD!! (0+ / 0-)

    "A dollah makes me hollah"-- Stephen Colbert, pretending to be S. Palin

    by stagemom on Wed May 01, 2013 at 04:37:08 PM PDT

  •  blood boiling...bad enough to see their "medical (0+ / 0-)

    clinics" within the confines of their stores...pretty soon we'll see classrooms.  Revolution anyone?

    If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it. -- Eugene Debs.

    by livjack on Wed May 01, 2013 at 04:47:23 PM PDT

  •  Privatized Lunches? Scurvy, anyone? (0+ / 0-)

    I don't think kids can live off of processed chicken alone.

  •  Twofers and threefers are always a great (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "investment". The New American Capitalist Geniuses now direct their ill-gotten gains of the last thirty years to things that simultaneously allow our corporate overlords to tap into some of that sweet, sweet taxpayer $$$$ to fatten their Cayman Islands' bank accounts, while directing only the latest body blow to the moribund American labor movement that is one of last sources of power able to slow down our plunge into full blown oligarchy.

    The threefer in this case is also, as a bonus, turning our education system completely into a corporate automaton plebe factory, thereby assuring a steady supply of drones only capable of pulling switches as directed instead of taking to the streets for justice.

    The New Gilded Age is upon us.

    "The philosophy of conservatism is inevitably doomed by its adherents' willingness to accept bluster as a sign of character and thick-headed devotion to meaningless symbols as sign of moral fiber." (Albert Einstein)

    by Jim R on Wed May 01, 2013 at 06:01:44 PM PDT

  •  Rhee and Walton are not alone (0+ / 0-)

    Rhee is no doubt one of the worst. During her short stint as a teacher she engaged in conduct that would have gotten a teacher fired (taping students mouths). She put Washington schools in turmoil, and covered up the erasure scandal. Her students first organization is rich in its irony, for its real actions are not about students, but about destroying public schools so they can be profitized.

    She is not alone. Murdoch is pouring money into this as well. He sees privatized education as a big money maker, and his lackey Joel Klein, who is former NYC Schools Chancellor, is pushing standardized testing as a huge money maker for News Corp.

    There are others, including the despicable "Democrats" for Education Reform.

    Each of these groups is virulently anti union. They believe teachers (and all other workers) should have no voice.

    We need to fight them every step of the way.

  •  Public Radio (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was listening to my NPR on my local station KQED in San Francisco today....and guess what, one of the segments was sponsored by these very folks.  Of course the sponsorship was cloaked in language that made it sound like a good thing, ie. helping K-12 education.  

    We should let public radio know what we think about this particular "sponsorship."

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