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THE union-hating Walton Family Foundation granted another $50 million to Teach for America, one of the nation’s most successful businesses. This will allow TFA to meet the needs of the charter industry, as TFA recruits are willing to work long hours and leave after 2-3 years.

93% of charters are nonunion.

Earlier today when I posted about President Obama’s decision to name Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the CEO of the Walmart Foundation, to become the head of the Office of Management and Budget, I made the error of identifying her as CEO of the Walton Family Foundation. It was obviously a mistake, and readers quickly called my attention to it. I made the change at once. I didn’t realize that the Walton billionaires have two different foundations. In addition, members of the family give a lot of money to political campaigns for candidates and issues, always on the same side of the political spectrum.

The Walton Family Foundation has given $158 million for each of the last two years (see here and here) to support vouchers and choice and to influence public opinion on behalf of privatization.

The Walmart Foundation seems to have the mission of winning good public and community relations for Walmart. Since Walmart has a bad habit of driving small stores out of business and disrupting communities, it is important to the corporation to buy goodwill. When Walmart comes to a town or region, mom-and-pop stores die, and sometimes Main Street itself dies, emptied out of tenants who could not compete with Walmart.

This is the Nation’s description of the Walmart Foundation.

Sylvia Matthews Burwell, the head of the Walmart Foundation, has been selected by President Obama to take charge of the Office of Management and Budget.

This is one of the most important policy jobs in the federal government. The director of OMB decides how money should be allocated, which programs should live and which should die. There are often intra-agency battles, but OMB holds the whip hand because it controls the budgetary decisions.

Burwell previously worked for the Gates Foundation.

The Walmart Foundation is not the Walton Family Foundation, but it is the same family nonetheless, known for their love of privatization, charters, and vouchers.

Rob Levine is a photographer and public school advocate in Minneapolis. In this post, he describes the role of the Minneapolis Foundation in funding a vast expansion of charter schools, which are overwhelmingly non-union. The Minneapolis Foundation has been a fixture in civic life since 1915, funding good works that benefit the entire city. The foundation currently dispenses $125 million.

Levine writes:

So when and why, exactly, did the Minneapolis Foundation start trying to kill the Minneapolis Public Schools?  

For a dozen years the foundation and its philanthropic allies have focused their money and influence on creating a public school system based on free-market “choice.” The reasons for this are twofold. First, the foundation weakens one of the last unionized sectors in the country, public school teachers; in this case, the same ones who are currently striking for higher wages, smaller class sizes, and increased mental health support. Second, it exposes the billions Minnesota spends annually on public education to private-sector profiteers. 

To achieve those goals, the foundation would first flood the city with continuously opening and closing charter schools. Then they would lead a movement to create and fund a raft of dodgy nonprofits to vilify teachers.

Charter Schools: A Minnesota-born Experiment 

In fact, if not for the Minneapolis Foundation, there would be no such thing as charter schools. According to Zero Chance of Passage, a book on the start of charter schools by former Minnesota State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, author of the nation’s first charter school law, they were dreamed up at a gathering thrown by the foundation in 1988 at Madden’s Resort in central Minnesota. The posh conference was attended by a “distinguished group of business, education, and civic leaders from around the Twin Cities,” Junge writes. 

Although charters today look little like those envisioned by the original proposals, the ideology of the movement still governs: Public schools have to compete for public dollars. Today, of the 180 operating charter schools in the state, five have unionized faculty.

At the time of their creation, many promises were made about the charter school experiment. At first they were to be lab schools, nontraditional learning centers where new education models are tested. Then, proponents said their presence was supposed to make regular public schools better. Then they turned into, essentially, a full-fledged second public school system. The results of the experiment show that charter schools do not get better results on standardized tests, they increase segregation, they put regular public school districts under permanent financial and enrollment pressure, and they have grown a cadre of schools with no teachers’ unions. 

Oh, and they fail a lot. By 2008, 16 years after the first charter school in the nation opened in St. Paul, charter schools had yet to gain a significant foothold in the state, and many had already closed for various, predictable problems, such as self-dealing, lack of adequate curriculum, various financial improprieties, and even lack of a building. The classroom environment amounted to “total bedlam,” one student said in a 2005 City Pages story. 

In a system predicated as a market, there was no market. In response, the Walton Family Foundation (the Walmart heirs) began funding in 2010, with a lot of help from local foundations, an organization called Charter School Partners, which would funnel the Waltons’ money into charter school startup grants to local entrepreneurs. For charter schools, startup is everything, because, once up and running, the state pretty much pays the bills…

In 2017, one year after [former mayor] Rybak took charge of the Minneapolis Foundation, there were already more than 14,000 students in charter schools in the city, and the district itself enrolled about 35,000 students. If you plan to create 30,000 new charter school seats in a district that enrolls 35,000 students you clearly intend to destroy that district.

Please open the link and read about the allies and money combined to eliminate public schools in Minneapolis.

The Century Foundation is supposed to be a liberal foundation. I had numerous contacts with it when it was previously known as The Twentieth Century Fund. My most memorable experience involved my membership on a task force in 1983 or so, which prepared a critique of American education and the need for reform. For that era, our task force report was fairly run-of-the-mill. What was remarkable was that our staff director disagreed with the task force. He wrote a ringing defense of our public schools and took issue with the conclusions of the report. His name was Paul Petersen. He is now one of the leading critics of public schools, now one of the most widely published advocates for vouchers and charters. Well, we switched sides.

Fast forward to the present.

The Twentieth Century Fund is now the Century Fund. My ex-husband served on its board for many years. It has a reputation for its careful research and sober findings.

But last year, the Century Fund released a report about how charter schools can promote “diversity by design,” identifying 125 charter schools that promote diversity.

This raised eyebrows because charters have frequently been criticized for promoting segregation, most notably by the UCLA Center on Civil Rights.

The report was remarkable because it was funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the anti-union, pro-privatization foundation of the billionaires who own Walmart. The Waltons say they have funded one-fourth of all charters in the nation. Since when does a liberal think tank take funding from a rightwing foundation and deliver a product that supports their charter crusade?

Last year, a parent activist complained about the bias of the report. She wrote her commentary on Leonie Haimson’s parent blog. Haimson, introducing her comments, pointed out a big flaw in the study. She wrote: This list of 125 schools was selected from 5,692 charter schools – only a tiny number.  The methodology is also questionable.  The authors identify these schools by analyzing their enrollment, websites and survey responses from school leaders.  Though the Century Foundation sent their survey about diversity to 971 charter schools, only 86 responded – which means that nearly 40 schools were put on the list even though the school leaders couldn’t be bothered to answer their survey.

This year, the Century Foundation recently accepted a grant of $407,053 from the Gates Foundation “to support the Century Foundation in addressing misconceptions that charter schools exacerbate racial and socioeconomic segregation.”

Read the wording again. TCF is not being funded to inquire whether charter schools exacerbate segregation but to “address misconceptions” that they do. This is not research. It is a contract to provide support for an opinion that challenges the scholarship of people like Gary Orfield at UCLA and Helen Ladd at Duke.




Did you know that Walmart is the single biggest seller of guns in America? Did you know that Walmart allows customers who are carrying guns to walk through the stores without hindrance? Of course you know that Walmart does not allow unions. See how all these issues converge in this short article by Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect.

The Walton Family, which owns Walmart, is the richest family in the world. Their family foundation is the single biggest supporter of charter schools. They say they funded one of every four charters in the nation.

ON TAP Today from the American Prospect
AUGUST 6, 2019

Meyerson on TAP

Walmart and Guns. In the wake of the assault-weapon murders at El Paso’s mega Walmart, America’s number-one gun seller and largest private-sector employer has come under justifiable criticism for its gun policies. Roughly half of Walmart’s 4,750 stores sell guns, and the company announced on Monday that that policy would not change. It also announced that it wouldn’t adopt a no-open-carry policy for its stores, which means that anyone in a state that permits the open carry of firearms—like Texas—can sashay through a Walmart brandishing a gun.


Not surprisingly, some Walmart employees have voiced apprehensions about that policy in the aftermath of Monday’s mass murders. “I’m looking around the store, thinking, where can I hide if something happens,” a customer-service employee at a Los Angeles-area Walmart toldThe Washington Post. “We’re all afraid we’re going to die.”


Getting their employer to prohibit open carry in its stores would be just the sort of proposal Walmart workers could present to their bosses if they had a union. But Walmart’s position on unions was made clear when the butchers in one Texas store endeavored to form a union some years back. The company responded by shuttering its meat department in that store, in every store in Texas, and in every store in the states surrounding Texas.

The grievances that lead workers to seek a union have never been only economic; sometimes, they’re about their concern for life and limb. Such would likely be the case at Walmart today if our labor law actually allowed workers to organize. A timely reminder that American business’s rabid opposition to worker power not only has given us four decades of wage stagnation but that sometimes, it kills. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON

Follow Harold Meyerson on Twitter

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The Century Foundation is a liberal think tank in New York City that is on the wrong side of the charter school debate. For years, it has issued reports claiming that charter schools would lead the way on racial integration. It’s not true, but TCF thinks that if it keeps saying it, it might someday be true.

Yesterday, TCF had a press conference to congratulate charter schools that were diverse by design. It identified 125 charter schools out of a sector of more than 6,000 charters.

To assert that charters are promoting diversity and integration requires cherry picking and willful blindness.

Last December, the AP reported that charter schools were among the nation’s most segregated schools. The AP said: “National enrollment data shows that charters are vastly over-represented among schools where minorities study in the most extreme racial isolation. As of school year 2014-2015, more than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent, and the number has been rising steadily….

““Desegregation works. Nothing else does,” said Daniel Shulman, a Minnesota civil rights attorney. “There is no amount of money you can put into a segregated school that is going to make it equal.”

“Shulman singled out charter schools for blame in a lawsuit that accuses the state of Minnesota of allowing racially segregated schools to proliferate, along with achievement gaps for minority students. Minority-owned charters have been allowed wrongly to recruit only minorities, he said, as others wrongly have focused on attracting whites.”

Andre Perry, a one-time charter leader in New Orleans, has called out charter advocates for their indifference to segregation. See his article for Brookings here, where charter leaders say they really don’t care about integration. Perry was even more blunt in an article posted on The Hechinger Report, where he said that any educational reform that ignores segregation is doomed to fail.” And he included charter schools on his doomed-to-fail list of reforms.

If charters were doing such a terrific job promoting integration, which they most definitely are not, why would the National NAACP have passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charters?

The UCLA Civil Rights Project has repeatedly called out charter schools for causing more segregation. Look what they said about the role of charters in promoting segregation in the once well-integrated Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina. (January, 2018)

“Charter Schools in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are directly and indirectly undermining school district efforts to desegregate public schools, according to a new study released today by the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA with researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools were once the nation’s bellwether for successful desegregation. Today, the district exemplifies how charter schools can impede districts’ efforts to resist re-segregation,” said Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, UNC Charlotte’s Chancellor’s Professor and professor of Sociology, Public Policy and Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC Charlotte. “This research has important implications not only for schools and communities in the Charlotte Mecklenburg region, but for the national debate over the growth and role of charter schools in our nation’s education system.”

In its 2017 study of segregation in Washington, D.C., the UCLA team concluded that the city’s charter schools “have the most extreme segregation in the city.”

Given that the overwhelming evidence from reputable sources—nationally and internationally—says that charter schools and choice are drivers of segregation, why is The Century Foundation supporting the agenda of Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration?

Perhaps this explains The Century Foundation’s charter love: “This case study is part of The Century Foundation’s project on charter school diversity, funded by The Walton Family Foundation.” The Walton Family Foundation is the rightwing, anti-union, anti-public school foundation of the family made billionaires by the non-union Walmart empire. The Walton Family Foundation is spending $200 million a year to expand charter schools. Ninety percent of charter schools are non- union. Walton has given tens of millions to Teach for America to create a ready supply of inexperienced, non-union, non-career teachers for charter schools.

Rob Levine describes in this post the concentration of corporate reformers on Minneapolis, where millions of dollars are pouring in to the city to turn it into the New Orleans of the north, a mecca for charter operators without public schools.

He writes:

In Minneapolis there are now 34 operating charter schools that enroll almost 12,000 students. In St. Paul there are now 37 operating charter schools enrolling more than 13,000 students. By comparison both districts currently enroll about 36,000 students. While it’s obviously true that students who enroll in a charter school in one city don’t necessarily hail from there, the numbers are a good benchmark.

The Walton Family Foundation has started 46% of all open charter schools in Minneapolis

And charter advocates are hard at work enlarging that total, in Minneapolis, at least. The charter advocacy and startup organization Charter School Partners (CSP – now Minnesota Comeback), is in the middle of a five year plan to open 20 new charter schools in Minneapolis. Last year Comeback announced that it had secured $30 million in commitments from philanthropies, which it plans to use to create “… 30,000 new rigorous and relevant seats – particularly for students of color and low-income students” by 2025 in Minneapolis.

Though it has existed for barely a year Comeback has already collected $1.4 million in grants from the Minneapolis,Joyce and WEM (Whitney MacMillan) foundations.

Whatever “rigorous and relevant” means, 30,000 new “seats” in a district that has a student population of about 36,000 students is essentially a plan to kill that public school district. As Alejandra Matos wrote in the Star Tribune a year ago, some Minneapolis education officials “…suspect Minnesota Comeback is out to undermine the traditional public school system by replacing it with a vast network of charter schools, like in New Orleans or Washington, D.C.”

How might that happen? In 2013 Moody’s Investors Services issued a report warning that charter schools could drain enough money from regular school districts to in effect create a mini death spiral. It warned that in response to lost revenue districts might “…cut academic and other programs, reducing service levels and thereby driving students to seek educational alternatives, including charter schools…”

It’s worth remembering that in 2016 the Minneapolis school district experienced an unexpected $20 million shortfall.

So the corporate reformers plan to add “30,000 new rigorous and relevant seats.” Where is the store that sells those seats? Can anyone buy one? Or are those high-quality seats sold only to charter operators?

Funny that so many evaluations show traditional public schools outperforming charter schools, even though the charters say they have a monopoly on those special chairs. Maybe it is because the traditional public schools are staffed by real teachers, not TFA.

It is very instructive to scan the long list of organizations that are funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Some will surprise you. Some will not. Here is what we know about this foundation. The Walton Family (beneficiaries of Walmart) is the richest family in America. There are many billionaires in the family. Like Betsy DeVos, they don’t like public education. They don’t like regulation. They love the free market. They don’t like unions. Individual family members have spent millions on political campaigns to support charters and vouchers. The Foundation also supports charters and school choice.

In 2015, the Walton Family Foundation spent $179 million on K-12 education grants. They are in the midst of a pledge to spend $1 billion to open more charters, and they have targeted certain cities for their beneficence (Atlanta, Boston, Camden, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, San Antonio and Washington, D.C.) Their goal is to undermine public education by creating a competitive marketplace of choices. They and DeVos are on the same page.

I suggest you scan the list to see which organizations have their hand out for funding from one of the nation’s most anti-public school, anti-union, rightwing foundations.

Here are a few of their grantees:

Black Alliance for Education Options (BAEO), run by Howard Fuller to spread the gospel of school choice: $2.78 million

Brookings Institution (no doubt, to buy the annual report that grades cities on school choice): $242,000

California Charter Schools Association: $5 million

Center for American Progress (theoretically a “centrist Democratic” think tank): $500,000

Charter Fund, Inc. (never heard of this one): $14 million

Chiefs for Change (Jeb Bush’s group): $500,000

College Board (to push Common Core?): $225,000

Colorado League of Charter Schools: $1,050,000

Editorial Projects in Education (Education Week): $70,000

Education Reform Now: $4.2 million

Education Trust, Inc. (supposed a “left-leaning advocacy group”): $359,000

Education Writers Association: $175,000

Educators for Excellence (anti-union teachers, usually from TFA): $925,000

Families for Excellent Schools (hedge fund managers who lobby for charter schools in New York City and Massachusetts): $6.4 million

Foundation for Excellence in Education (Jeb Bush’s organization): $3 million

High Tech High Graduate School of Education (this one stumped me; how can a high school run a graduate school of education?): $780,000

KIPP Foundation: $6.9 million

Leadership for Education Equity Foundation (this is TFA’s political organization that trains TFA to run for office): $5 million

Massachusetts Charter Public School Association (this funding preceded the referendum where the citizens of Massachusetts voted “no mas” to new charters): $850,000

National Public Radio: $1.1 million

National Urban League: $300,000

Pahara Institute: $832,000

Parent Revolution: $500,000

Relay Graduate School of Education (that pseudo-grad school with no professors, just charter teachers): $1 million

Schools That Can Milwaukee (Tough luck, the Working Families Party just swept the school board): $1.6 million

StudentsFirst Institute: $2.8 million

Teach for America (to supply scabs): $8 million

The New York Times: $350,000

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: $700,000

Urban Institute (supposedly an independent think tank in D.C.): $350,000

To be fair, in another part of the grants report, called Special Projects, the Walton Family Foundation donated $112,404 to the Bentonville Public Schools and $25,000 to the Bentonville Public Schools Foundation, in the town where the Waltons are located. Compare that to the $179 million for charters and choice, and you get the picture of what matters most.

Foundations are tax-exempt because they are supposed to do good works on behalf of society. But more and more foundations are putting their vast, untaxed wealth into the national effort to undermine public education and to hand it over to entrepreneurs, amateurs, fast-buck operators, and religious institutions. Privatization does not promote the common good. Privatization is harmful to the commonweal.

Tom Ultican, a high school teacher of advanced math and physics, takes a look at the powerful San Diego Foundation. Sadly, most of its funding in education goes to nonpublic schools. Public schools seem to be an afterthought.

He writes:

San Diego Foundation was established in 1975 and has grown to almost $700 million in assets. It’s self-described purpose: “As one of the nation’s leading community foundations, The San Diego Foundation strives to improve San Diegans’ quality of life by creating equity and ensuring opportunities to be WELL (Work, Enjoy, Live & Learn).” In 2014, they gave over $10 million to educational endeavors. The following table illustrates the spending bias against public education.

Of that $10 million, only $373,000 went to public schools. That’s odd, because the overwhelming majority of children in San Diego attend the neglected public schools.

Another favorite recipient of San Diego Foundation funds is competency-based education. The goal of CBE is to put every child on a computer. We know from multiple studies that children learn best from human teachers who respond to them. Yet the San Diego Foundation has jumped on the Bandwagon to Nowhere.

And here is another strange pattern:

The largest single grant bestowed by the SD Foundation was $2,6 5 0,7 0 9 to the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego. The JC Foundation had net assets at the end of 2014 of $171,593,990.

The Jewish Community Foundation spending on education follows a similar pattern as the San Diego Foundation. They spent $466,830 for groups working to privatize public education most of which went to TFA ($406,330). They also spent lavishly on private schools including $146,000 to La Jolla Country Day, a decidedly upscale K-12 private school.

By far the largest grant by the Jewish Community Foundation was the $25,817,228 bequeathed to University of California San Diego. A major patron of both the Jewish Community Foundation and UCSD is the Qualcomm founder and billionaire, Irwin Jacobs.

Three more grants from the Jewish Community Foundation were interesting. They gave Cornell University $5,511,000. They also gave the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund $6,362,171. The Goldman Sachs fund asset total at the end of 2013 was $1,500,395,380. And the JC Foundation gave the SD Foundation $1,515,800. Why give money back? It is like the Charter School Growth Fund giving their benefactors from Walmart $15,000,000 in 2013. Why?

Why would any foundation give a donation to the Goldman Sachs fund, which has assets of $1.5 billion? Puzzling.