Archives for category: Walton Foundation



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser selected Antwan Wilson as the next chancellor of schools, promising that he would continue the policies of Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson. Wilson has been superintendent in Oakland for the past two years. He is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. He has pledged to tackle the achievement gaps in D.C., which are the largest of any urban district.


D.C. adopted mayoral control of the schools in 2007, copying New York City’s example. Michelle Rhee served from 2007 to 2010, when Adrian Fenty, the mayor who appointed her, was defeated, in large part because of Rhee. Her deputy, Kaya Henderson, took her place.


About half the children in the District are enrolled in charter schools, which are not under the chancellor’s control. The Walton Family Foundation has made privatizing schools in the nation’s Capitol a priority.

This just happened in Los Angeles: Educators at four LAUSD public schools turned away money from the two billionaire backers of privatization. Broad and Walton are offering funding to these schools at the same time that their charters are diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from the district’s public schools.

For immediate release
Media Contact:
Anna Bakalis
UTLA Communications Director

UTLA Educators Overwhelmingly Vote Against Broad-Walmart Grant Funding

Los Angeles, CA – This week, educators at four LAUSD schools voted to reject grant money from “Great Public Schools Now,” the public face of a group backed by the California Charter School Association and bankrolled by billionaires Eli Broad and the Waltons of Walmart.

Educators say that this is a PR stunt, not a genuine effort to fund schools in need and are calling on the District to uphold the vote by not accepting the grant money from GPSN, in any way. These four schools are within the targeted 10 areas for Broad-Walmart funding.

The vote was 98% in favor of rejecting the money; ballot counts at Drew Middle School, Pacoima Middle School, San Fernando High School, and Gompers Middle School were, respectively, 35 to 1, 58 to 0, 72 to 0, and 22 to 3.

Jared Dozal, who voted against his school receiving Broad-Walmart money, is a math and computer science teacher at San Fernando High School. He says this is a distraction from real, lasting efforts for sustainable funding for all public schools.

“We know that some will see this as an opportunity missed for funding, but the amount offered is peanuts for the billionaires behind this effort,” Dozal said. “We won’t let this distract us from saving our schools from a corporate takeover, paid for by the people who only want to destroy public education.”

Dozal said the grant’s offer of “up to” $250,000 per year for three years is insulting, considering the amount of money siphoned from public schools to subsidize rampant charter school growth.

For example, according to LAUSD’s own numbers, Gompers Middle School has $1.4 million less in its budget than 2013. Since school budgets are in large part determined by enrollment, the rapid expansion of charter school growth has clearly impacted the middle school.

In the zip code that Gompers is in, and in the nearby zip codes, there are 21 charter schools. Thirteen of these are the largest corporate charters, including Green Dot, Alliance, Aspire and Kipp. The Waltons of Walmart have contributed generously to these four corporate charters, and Eli Broad alone has contributed more than $75 million over the last few years. In fact, in the June 2015 GPSN plan, Broad and Walton say they will be raising $135 million more for these charter school operators.

Getting the funding and resources our students need requires meaningful and sustainable initiatives. To that end, members of United Teachers Los Angeles join with parents and community members to address issues like school site improvements and student safety, enriched curriculum that includes funding for arts, music and ethnic studies as well as fully staffed schools with full-time nurses, librarians and counselors.

UTLA is also working to pass Prop. 55 on next week’s ballot, pursuing long-term funding solutions in Sacramento, and supporting efforts such as the Make It Fair campaign to close corporate property tax loopholes.

Mercedes Schneider describes here the billionaire-funded plan to disrupt and privatize public education in Los Angeles, while deceiving the public and hiding the men behind the curtain.

Mercedes uses her superb investigative talents to follow the money and show the tight collaboration be tween the faux-Democrat Eli Broad and the far-right, union-hating Waltons of Arkansas.

She writes:

“It seems that the Walton-funded writing on the Los Angeles wall might well entail expanding charters as the answer to making all Los Angeles schools better. It also believes in bringing traditional school districts around to its market-driven-reform thinking via corporate-reform-group infiltration. Too, it seems that the Walton Foundation believes that grass roots support for its effort is a matter of getting the public mind in line with the Walton charter expansion priorities.

“The Walton intentions in incubating and expanding corporate reform fit hand-in-glove with the Broad intentions for Los Angeles. On its website, the Broad Foundation generously tosses around the term “public schools” even as it features KIPP, Success Academies, and Teach for America among its handful of “key grantees.” Furthermore, the Broad listing of current grantees is for the most part a corporate reform festival:

4.0 Schools
Achievement First
Achievement School District
Bellwether Education Partners
Bright Star Schools
Broad Center for the Management of School Systems
Building Excellent Schools
Center for American Progress
Central Michigan University Foundation
Charter School Growth Fund
Common Sense Media
Education Reform Now
Education Week
Great Public Schools Now
Green Dot Public Schools
Harvard University
IDEA Public Schools
Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)
Leadership for Educational Equity
Michigan Education Excellence Foundation
Michigan State University – College of Education
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
National Center on Education and the Economy
National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)
Noble Network of Charter Schools
Orange County Public Schools
Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
Policy Innovators in Education Network
Progressive Policy Institute
Results in Education (RIE) Foundation
Scholarship Management Services
School of Visual and Performing Arts
Silicon Schools Fund, Inc.
Success Academy Charter Schools
Teach For America

“Note that Broad is currently funding ExED, and that Great Public Schools Now has two ExED reps on its board/team: William Siart and Anita Landecker. What this illustrates is the all-too-common corporate reform funding incest. (According to the Walton 2013 tax form, Walton has also given ExED $50,000, and the Waltons loaned ExED $5 million for Los Angeles charter school facility financing.)”

Mercedes Schneider here describes a new entity that has joined the corporate reform movement. It is called SEN, the School Empowerment Network. It seems to be funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the billionaires who want to privatize all of public education and get rid of teachers’ unions. It is based in Brooklyn, New York, but gained its first contract in Michigan.

Michigan is the state where 80% of the charters operate for-profit. It doesn’t really need more charters. It does need accountability and transparency. The Detroit Free Press published a week-long series in 2014 about taxpayers being fleeced by the charter industry, which gets $1 billion a year and is never held accountable.

Jeff Bryant writes here about Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock was the scene of one of the crucial battles in the movement to integrate public education after the Brown decision of 1954. When city and state officials refused to integrate Central High School, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and sent in 1,000 members of the 101st Airborne to enforce the court order to admit black students.

Jeff interviews a large number of citizens of Little Rock, who tell the story of the district. For a time, it was successfully integrated, or at least parts of it were. But the resistance never went away.

At present, the Walton Family Foundation is behind a state takeover of the entire district, even though only six of its 48 schools have been declared to be “failing” schools.

State Senator Joyce Elliott said to Jeff:

“We are retreating to 1957,” Elliott believes. Only now, instead of using Jim Crow and white flight, or housing and highways, the new segregationists have other tools at their disposal. First, education funding cuts have made competition for resources more intense, with wider disparities along racial lines. Second, recent state takeover of the district has spread a sense throughout the community of having lost control of its education destiny. Parents, local officials, and community activists continuously describe change as something being done to them rather than with them. And third, an aggressive charter school sector that competes with local public schools for resources and students further divides the community.

And lurking in the background of anything having to do with Little Rock school politics is the Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic organization connected to the family that owns the Walmart retail chain, whose headquarters is in Bentonville, Arkansas.

State Commissioner Johnny Key terminated Little Rock’s superintendent, Baker Kurrus:

The disenfranchisement of Little Rock citizens became especially apparent recently, when Commissioner Key suddenly, and without explanation, terminated the contract of Baker Kurrus, until then the superintendent of the Little Rock School District. (Key had originally appointed Kurrus himself.)

As veteran local journalist for the Arkansas Times Max Brantley explains, Kurrus was initially regarded with suspicion due to the takeover and the fact he was given the helm despite his lack of education background. But Kurrus had gradually earned the respect of locals due to his tireless outreach to the community and evenhanded treatment of oppositional points of view.

But many observers of school politics in Little Rock speculate Kurrus was terminated because he warned that charter school expansions would further strain resources in the district. In advising against expansions of these schools, Kurrus shared data showing charter school tend to under-enroll students with disabilities and low income kids.

He came to view charter schools as a “parallel school system” that would add to the district’s outlays for administration and facilities instead of putting more money directly into classroom instruction.

“It makes no sense” to expand charter schools, he is quoted as telling the local NPR outlet. “You’d never build two water systems and then see which one worked … That’s essentially what we’re doing” by expanding charters.

Kurrus also came to believe that increasing charter school enrollments would increase segregation in the city.

In a state where the Waltons have their headquarters, it is unthinkable that Little Rock have a superintendent who isn’t committed to the magic of charter schools. That contradicts the Walton philosophy. Kurrus had to go. Interestingly, one of the two charter chains (LISA) in Little Rock is identified by Sharon Higgins as Gulen charters.

A report on the academic performance of charters throughout the state of Arkansas in 2008-2009 found, “Arkansas’ charter schools do not outperform their traditional school peers,” when student demographics are taken into account. (As the report explains, “several demographic factors” – such as race, poverty, and ethnicity, – strongly correlate with lower scores on standardized tests and other measures of achievement.)

Specifically in Little Rock, the most recent comparison of charter school performance to public schools shows that a number of LRSD public schools, despite having similar or more challenging student demographics, out-perform LISA and eStem charters.

There’s also evidence charter schools add to the segregation of Little Rock. Soon after the decision to expand these schools, the LISA network blanketed the district with a direct mail marketing campaign that blatantly omitted the poor, heavily black and Latino parts of the city, according to an investigation by the Arkansas

In the state board’s vote to take over the district, as Brantley reports for the Times, members who voted yes had family ties to and business relationships with organizations either financed by the Walton Foundation or working in league with the Waltons to advocate for charter schools.

In another recent analysis in the Times, reporter Benjamin Hardy traces recent events back to a bill in the state legislature in 2015, HB 1733, that “originated with a Walton-affiliated education lobbyist.” That bill would have allowed an outside non-profit to operate any school district taken over by the state. The bill died in committee when unified opposition from the Little Rock delegation combined with public outcry to cause legislators to waver in their support.

So what the Waltons couldn’t accomplish with legislation like HB 1733 they are currently accomplishing by influencing official administration actions, including taking out Kurrus and expanding charters across the city.

The Waltons recently announced that they plan to spend $250 million annually to expand charter schools. They selected 17 urban districts that they would pour money into. One of them is Little Rock.

Politico reports that Hillary Clinton was booed when she spoke of cooperation between public schools and “public charter schools.”

I don’t think she has any idea of the depth of antagonism towards charter schools among teachers.

Maybe she doesn’t know that 90% of charters are non-union.

Maybe she doesn’t know that the far-right Walton Family Foundation (which hates unions) funded one of every four charters in the nation and has pledged to spend at least $200 million annually to create more non-union schools.

Maybe she doesn’t know that ALEC (which hates unions and public schools) is a huge supporter of charter schools.

Maybe she doesn’t know that the same “vast rightwing conspiracy” that hates her loves charter schools.

Maybe she doesn’t know that every Republican governor, as well as Donald Trump, is enthusiastic about charter schools.

Maybe she doesn’t know that charter schools have become the favorite ploy of those who want to privatize and monetize public education.

I have been trying to arrange a meeting with her, face to face, but so far have had no success.

I will keep trying.

I would really like to explain to her what is happening, how it threatens the future of public education, and how far it is from the original idea of charter schools.

Irony: on the same day that the New York Times reports that charters and competition have caused an unprecedented collapse of education in Detroit, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Walton Family Foundation (Walmart) will pump another $250 million this year alone into starting more new charters.

The Waltons–who are all billionaires–are doubling down on failure. They are doing to public schools what Walmart does to communities: destroying the competition, disrupting the community, and targeting public education for privatization.

I vow never to set foot in a Walmart. I know that is difficult for people because in many communities, all the mom-and-pop stores folded after Walmart arrived. Now mom and pop are low-wage greeters for Walmart.

Walmart relies heavily on foreign imports for its products, thus contributing to the outsourcing of manufacturing in this country. It has undermined American workers and home-grown businesses. Now it wants to drive public schools out of business with the same predatory techniques. The Waltons are not good neighbors.

Harold Meyerson, editor of The American Prospect, writes in the Los Angeles Times that progressives in California should stay involved in state politics and join to defeat the power of big money.

As he shows, the big money interests have combined to elect conservative Democrats and defeat progressive Democrats. Because of the state’s “top-two” primaries, regardless of party, the big-money guys are picking malleable conservative Democrats and pouring millions into their campaigns to pick off progressive campaigns.

Bernie Sanders’ keystone issue was to limit the role of money in politics. In California, the moneyed interests are saturating legislative races with donations that their opponents can’t match.

Over the past two years, oil companies and “education reform” billionaires have been funding campaigns for obliging Democratic candidates running against their more progressive co-partisans under the state’s “top-two” election process. In this week’s primary, independent committees spent at least $24 million, with most of that money flowing to Democrats who opposed Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to halve motorists’ use of fossil fuels by 2030, and a substantial sum going to Democrats who support expanding charter schools.

Six years ago, according to the Associated Press, just one legislative primary race had more than $1 million in outside spending, and four had more than $500,000. This year, eight races saw more than $1 million in such spending, and 15 more than $500,000.

In a heavily Democratic district outside Sacramento, a November state Senate runoff will pit Democratic Assemblyman Bill Dodd, who opposed Brown’s legislation, against former Democratic Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada. Dodd has already benefited from one independent campaign funded by Chevron and other energy companies to the tune of more than $270,000, and from an education reform campaign funded by charter school proponents such as billionaire Eli Broad in the amount of $1.68 million.

Since progressives can’t match their millions, they should do their best to expose them and their surrogates as the puppets they are.

Public education in California is a plum for the billionaires. They want to privatize it. Who are the biggest spenders in the self-named “education reform movement”? Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, and Alice Walton. None is a parent in public schools. None has children in public schools. Two do not even live in California.

This is NOT what democracy looks like.

This is a remarkable editorial that appears in the Los Angeles Times, of all places. The headline tells a story we did not expect to read on this newspaper’s editorial page:

Gates Foundation failures show philanthropists shouldn’t be setting America’s public school agenda

Read that again. Slowly.

The editorial recaps the serial failures of the Gates Foundation in education: Small high schools (abandoned); evaluating teachers by test scores (not yet abandoned but clearly a failure, as witnessed by the disasterous, costly experience in Hillsborough County, Florida); Common Core (not abandoned, but facing a massive public rejection).

But it’s not all bad, says the editorial:

It was a remarkable admission for a foundation that had often acted as though it did have all the answers. Today, the Gates Foundation is clearly rethinking its bust-the-walls-down strategy on education — as it should. And so should the politicians and policymakers, from the federal level to the local, who have given the educational wishes of Bill and Melinda Gates and other well-meaning philanthropists and foundations too much sway in recent years over how schools are run.

That’s not to say wealthy reformers have nothing to offer public schools. They’ve funded some outstanding charter schools for low-income students. They’ve helped bring healthcare to schools. They’ve funded arts programs.

This is not the whole story, of course. They have funded a movement to privatize public education, which drains resources and the students the charters want from public schools, leaving them in worse shape for the vast majority of students. And they have insisted on high-stakes testing, thus leading schools to eliminate or curtail their arts programs. As for healthcare in the schools, there should be more of it, but it should not depend on philanthropic largesse. Two children in the Philadelphia public schools died because the school nurses were cut back to only two days a week, and there were no philanthropists filling the gap.

Knowing how destructive the venture philanthropists have been–not only Gates, but also Eli Broad and the Walton Family, and a dozen or two other big philanthropies–one could wish that they would fund healthcare and arts programs, and perhaps experimental schools that demonstrated what public schools with ample resources could accomplish.

Still we must be grateful when the Los Angeles Times writes words like these:

Philanthropists are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools. The Gates experience teaches once again that educational silver bullets are in short supply and that some educational trends live only a little longer than mayflies.

Allowing Bill Gates or Eli Broad or the Walton Family to set the nation’s education is not only unwise, it is undemocratic. The schools belong to the public, not to the 1%.

Since the editorial mentioned Bill Gates’ devout belief that teachers could be evaluated by the test scores of their students, it is appropriate to recall that the Los Angeles Times was the first newspaper in the nation to publish ratings for teachers based on test scores; it even had hopes of winning a Pulitzer Prize for this ugly intervention by non-educators who thought that teaching could be reduced to a number and splashed in headlines. Let us never forget Rigoberto Ruelas, a fifth-grade teacher who committed suicide shortly after the evaluations were published by the Los Angeles Times, and he was declared by the Times to be among the “least effective” teachers. There followed a heated debate about the methodology used by the Times to rate teachers. That was before the American Statistical Association warned against using test scores to evaluate individual teachers. But the Los Angeles Times was taking Gates’ lead and running with it. It was not worth the life of this good man.

Mercedes Schneider received a copy of the Media Matters report on the corporate rightwing assault on public education, as did I and many others. She had the same reaction that I did. How can you list the rightwing think tanks, corporate groups, and foundations that are promoting privatization and forget to mention the three biggest funders of rightwing attacks on public education: Gates, Walton, and Broad?


There were some other glaring omissions. Stand for Children and Parent Revolution were there, but not Democrats for Education Reform, which funds candidates who support the rightwing agenda.


It seemed fishy. Mercedes did some digging and learned that Media Matters is led by journalist David Brock. Brock is active in the Clinton campaign. It must have been a political decision to omit the three biggest funders of privatization and anti-union policies. More than 90% of the nation’s 7,000 or so charter schools are non-union. The expansion of charters is an effective way to break the nation’s largest public unions. The funders know that.


After more digging, Mercedes concluded that the omissions were not accidental. I decided to trash the post I had written. But I was glad to see some acknowledgement–even if partial–for the struggle we are engaged in to save public education.