In addition to giving grants to right-leaning think tanks like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Walton foundation hired an education program officer who had worked at the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative business-backed group. Walton has also given to centrist organizations such as New Leaders for New Schools, a group co-founded by Jon Schnur, a former senior adviser to President Obama’s transition team and to Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.Walton money has been behind the drive to close Chicago public schools while the city expanded charter schools, and has gone to attacking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for having the nerve to turn down a handful of applications by charter schools to take over space in public school buildings.
In 2013, the Walton foundation spent more than $164 million across the country. According to Marc Sternberg, who was appointed director of K-12 education reform at the Walton Family Foundation last September, Walton has given grants to one in every four charter start-ups in the country, for a total of $335 million. [...]
Although the foundation’s leaders say they are focused on helping children in poverty or stuck in low-performing schools, some of their actions support concepts regardless of whether poor children benefit. In 2012, for example, Walton gave $300,000 to the Douglas County School District in Colorado to help it fight a lawsuit brought by opponents of a voucher program. The median income of families in the district, where the public schools are high performing, is more than $99,000, according to census data.
All of this is in the absence of evidence that, even with money pouring in from the Waltons and Bill Gates and Eli Broad, charter schools outperform traditional public schools on average (some do, some don't, and the overall effects are a wash), while in many places, charter schools have many fewer special needs students, English language learners and homeless students. But really, you don't need to look any further than the fact that this money is coming from the Walmart Waltons to realize that education and opportunity are not the goal. Because we know what Walmart is as an employer and as an economic force in this country, and what we know tells us for damn sure that education and opportunity rank exactly nowhere on the Walton priority list.