Archives for category: Walton Foundation

For many years, the Walton family has owned the state of Arkansas. Their collective wealth exceeds $150 billion, yet Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the nation. All that money, and very little has trickled down. Perhaps you have seen the ads on national television about how much Walmart cares about its neighbors. The people of Little Rock know better.

Veteran journalist Cathy Frye reports on a dramatic series of events that occurred yesterday. Peaceful protestors closed down four Walmart stores in Little Rock.

Frye writes:

But why? Why close Walmarts?

To these anguished pleas, I offer this by way of explanation.

Because the Waltons need to understand that it’s time to relinquish their iron-clad grip on the state of Arkansas, on its economy, and on its public schools.

I worked for three years for a Walton-funded “nonprofit” organization called the Arkansas “Public” School Resource Center. If you scroll down this blog, you will find numerous posts about how APSRC operates. Its mission is to destabilize, deconstruct and resegregate public schools. It also is working with other Walton nonprofits to create a private-school voucher system in Arkansas.

The Waltons have put themselves, their politics, and their wealth above what is good for all Arkansans.

So here we are, in the midst of a pandemic and the Waltons are using this public-health crisis and the resulting school closures to retain and even strengthen their control over the Little Rock School District…Protesters shut down Walmarts because those stores symbolize everything that is wrong in Arkansas for those who are marginalized and oppressed.

You can’t put lipstick on a pig. The Waltons are the avaricious family that destroys communities and Main Street across America. Good on Little Rock for calling them out.

Cathy Frye is a veteran journalist who worked for the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, then quit when she decided she could no longer stomach being part of the Walton Goubdation machine.

She writes here about the plan to outsource schooling this fall to a tech corporation that is under investigation.

She writes:

I got curious and took a little gander today at the Arkansas Public School Center’s website. And yep, there it was – APSRC’s latest attempt to help its digital “learning” providers by – once again – taking advantage of the pandemic’s effects on public schools.

Pay attention, folks: This partnership – announced today – involves the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, the Arkansas Department of Education and an outfit known as Lincoln Learning Solutions. This partnership will affect how public schools operate during the 2020-2021 school year.

APSRC and the Arkansas Department of Education are endorsing a digital learning provider that is currently under investigation by the Pennsylvania State Auditor General’s Office.

Why an investigation? Because a five-year audit revealed that Lincoln Learning Solutions had received more than $110 million in taxpayer dollars. Now, Arkansas’ parents and schools are about to get sucker-punched in a similar fashion.

You can also be sure that someway, somehow, APSRC Executive Director Scott Smith will also find a way to profit from this. Smith does not believe in MOUs that offer no benefit to his Walton-backed empire – er, I mean, “non-profit” organization.

I dealt with digital-provider “representatives” – not educators but salesmen – for three years. They expected free vendor booths at each APSRC conference. They also expected to be wined and dined on APSRC’s tab. Initially, they got what they wanted via a grant awarded to APSRC’s teaching and learning department. But when the money ran out, they still expected to be wooed and catered to. And Smith didn’t seem to mind, which tells me that APSRC also was making money by supporting these digital providers.

APSRC has been trying for years – well before my time there – to sell this digital-learning crap to Arkansas schools. Problem is, this crap, aside from being crap, has been too pricey even for the better-off districts.

Open the link and read the rest. The Waltons are happy to disrupt public schools at any time.

Christine Langhoff is a retired teachers in Massachusetts who is an activist on behalf of public schools. She warns here about the unfolding plot to impose a state takeover of Boston public schools. Having been decisively rebuffed at the polls by the state’s voters in 2016, the Walton allies on the state board have found another way to disrupt and control the Boston public schools and install Broadies and other willing allies to advance their privatization agenda.

Christine writes:

Massachusetts’ state board of education has been moving inexorably toward a takeover of the Boston’s schools. On March 13, the same day as schools shut down, DESE announced a MOU with Boston’s superintendent. In response, Alain Jehlen, Board Member of Citizens for Public Schools, is taking a deep dive into how and why the state rates city schools so poorly on the Schoolyard News website.

Here’s Part 1:

“Boston has 34 schools (out of about 125) that rank in the bottom 10 percent in the state. BPS as a whole is 14th from the bottom out of 289 districts. Why is it rated so low?

“One major reason is that the rating system was designed in a way that almost automatically puts Boston and other urban centers with large numbers of low-income students and recent immigrants at the bottom.

“Here’s how it works: The state rates schools and districts mostly according to test scores. But there are two ways they could use the scores. State officials picked the one that makes urban areas look worse.”

https://schoolyardnews.com/one-reason-boston-gets-low-ratings-from-the-state-the-system-is-designed-to-give-bad-marks-to-f6c9ee3418d

The current board of education is loaded up with Walton connected folks. No doubt that has some impact on decision making.

Once again, Peter Greene has done us a great favor by reading a tedious billionaire-funded report that tries to prove what we know to be absurd: that the students and teachers of these United States really really need standardized testing. Having taught for 39 years, Peter knows this is hogwash.

Somehow, the United States became the most prosperous nation in the world long before the Big Standardized Tests we’re mandated by federal law in 2001. Nearly 20 years of the BS Tests, billions paid to testing corporations, and what is there to show for all this time, money, and effort: NAEP scores in reading and math have been flat for at least a decade, history and geography scores have declined, and students have lost time for recess, play, the arts, and whatever else is not tested.

It bears mentioning that no high-performing nation in the world tests all children every year from grades 3-8 as we do.

The report that Greene reviews and found wanting was produced by a DC organization called FutureEd, which wants to preserve the status quo created by No Child Left Behind.

Greene writes:

Defending the Future of the Big Standardized Test

What has happened to our beloved Big Standardized Test? Why do people keep picking on it? And can we lift it back up to its hallowed heights of the past? I have a report sitting in one of my tabs here that wants to answer those questions, yet somehow falls short. It’s FutureEd’s report The Big Test, and it is yet another attempt to repackage reformster alternate earth history. It’s not super long, but I’ve read it so that you don’t have to. Thank goodness I took my blood pressure meds today. Buckle up and let’s go.

Who Are These People?

FutureEd is a project of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. It was founded by Thomas Toch, whose previous work included some edu-flavored thinky tanks and executive director of Independent Education, a private school network in DC, and an editor at US News. He is one more self-declared education policy expert who has apparently never taught in a K-12 classroom.

FutureEd launched a few years back, with declarations of independence and lack of bias; one more entry in the “new conversation” pageant. But its independence was all that one can expect from a group funded by the City Fund, the Waltons, and Bill and Melinda Gates. Their senior fellows are drawn from 50CAN, Bridge International Academies, Education Trust, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Alliance for Excellent Education, and NewSchools Venture Fund. It’s a whole blooming field of Reformsters without any traditional public education advocates anywhere in sight.

Greene

In 1994, the Clinton administration started a small federal program and funded it with $4.5 million to help launch new charter schools. At the time, charter schools were a new idea, and there were not many of them. The first charter school had opened in Minnesota in 1991, and six states passed laws authorizing charters in 1992. In 1994, the idea was too new to have produced results or research. So Congress allocated a measly $4.5 million.

In the 26 years since the federal Charter Schools Program started, the charter idea has burgeoned into an industry with state charter school associations, lobbyists in D.C. and in state capitols, and support from numerous foundations, billionaires, corporations, and Wall Street. There is considerable research about charters as well as controversy surrounding their methods of selecting and retaining or excluding students. Charters now enroll 6% of the nation’s students.

Two things are clear:

1. The charter sector today is very well funded by billionaire patrons such as the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe abroad Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and Netflix founder Reed Hastings. It has no need of federal funding.

2. Some charters get high test scores (and are accused of skimming to get the “best” students), some get the worst scores in their states, and most get scores about the same as public schools with similar demographics. In the one all-charter district in the nation, New Orleans, about half the schools are rated D or F by the state. Although the charter industry sings their praises, it’s clear that charters have no secret sauce to lift up every child.

Yet despite the fact that charters have a huge number of financial angels with very deep pockets, despite the fact that they do not solve the deep-seated problems of American education, despite their spotty academic record, funding for the Federal Charter Schools Program has grown to $440 million per year.

Under Betsy DeVos, the CSP has become her personal slush fund to help The expansion of large corporate charter chains, like KIPP and IDEA. The original idea that the federal funds would launch entrepreneurial start-ups is long forgotten.

About two weeks ago, DeVos released the latest CSP funds and again favored the big corporate charter chains, which have many millions in reserve and long lists of billionaire patrons.

DeVos handed out the first $200 million to her favorite chain, IDEA, which has no financial need. IDEA won $72 million, having previously received more than $200 million from DeVos. IDEA, you may recall, is known for its lavish spending. Its board approved the lease of a private jet for nearly $2 million a year, but had to cancel the lease because of adverse publicity in Texas, where the chain is based. Its CEO hired a private jet to take him to meet with DeVos in Florida; he was the only passenger. The chain’s executives,lacking their own jet, are allowed to fly first class with their families, not exactly like public school employees on official travel.

The second biggest winner was Mater Academy, which won $57 million. It is affiliated with the for-profit (and very rich) Florida for-profit chain Academica.

The Network for Public Education published two reports about the CSP in 2019, documenting that the program is shot through with waste, fraud, and abuse. About 40% of the charters funded by CSP either never opened or closed not long after opening. The loss of federal funds was $1 billion. The first report—Asleep at the Wheel— is here. The second report—Still Asleep at the Wheel—is here.

Tom Ultican reviewed the two NPE reports and recounted Betsy DeVos’s unsurprising hostile response to them. Why would she relinquish control over $440 million, which helps corporate chains that divert money from public schools and advances DeVos’s long-term goal of wrecking the foundations of public education?

It is ironic that the Trump administration in its now forgotten budget for the coming year proposed to eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program by folding it and 28 other federal programs into a bloc grant to the states. At the same time, Trump and DeVos proposed The creation of a multi-billion dollar voucher program. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives made clear that these proposals were Dead on Arrival. Nonetheless, the charter lobbyists were shocked to discover that charter schools are just a stepping-stone to vouchers for DeVos.

Thomas Ultican has analyzed the billionaire funders behind the pro-Disruption, anti-democracy website “Education Post.”

The major funders are the usual members of the Billionaire Boys and Girls Club: Bloomberg, Waltons, Chan Zuckerberg, and Mrs. Jobs.

Please open and read his post.

If you thought the Disrupters might have softened their tone during the pandemic, like, as a show of decency, you will be disappointed. They are still attacking, vilifying, and mocking anyone daring to defend public education, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. It must really upset them that after all these years and billions spent on privatization, only 6% of American students enroll in charter schools.

For some reason, I am one of their prime targets. I suppose I should take it as a compliment.

I will never answer in kind.

They are swimming in cash, but what they cannot buy is civility, kindness, compassion, or dignity.

In Arkansas, the governor and the legislature does not want the citizens of Little Rock to have democratic control of their public schools. They took over the schools five years ago and were supposed to return it to the people but passed a hoax of a bill.

Now activists have filed a lawsuit to expose the hoax and demand a real return to democratic control of their schools.

Max Brantley, veteran journalist in Little Rock, explains how the state intends to clamp down on a new local board and hang on to the reins of power.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of three plaintiffs by Matthew Campbell, challenges the state Board’s order that prevents the School Board from filing lawsuits; from negotiating with the teachers union on a contract, and from firing the school superintendent.

The plaintiffs are a parent of a child in the district, Heather Speyer-Rainbolt; Jim Ross, a member of the School Board disbanded by the state five years ago on account of low standardized tests scores in a handful of the district’s almost four dozen schools, and Marshall Sladyen, a teacher at Hall High School.

The lawsuit argues that the state’s ability to control the district ended by law at the five-year trusteeship period in January. Then, the state had to consolidate, annex or reconstitute the district. The state contended that it had reconstituted the district by allowing the election of a new board at the end of this year. But it put three key limits on its powers. It has since acted in other ways to assert control — including in the naming of a school and designation of a principal and asserting that it could act in any way it found necessary to oversee practices in the district.

So, the hoax is exposed. The new locally elected board is not allow to file lawsuits; it is not allowed to restore the teachers’ union; it is not allowed to fire the superintendent hired by the state. The state board can do whatever it wants to intervene in the district and the local board is powerless to stop it. The state board, the state superintendent, the governor, and the legislature are determined to crush democracy in Little Rock, without regard to the law.

Behind the hoax are the Waltons, who treat the state as their private plantation. I asked a local parent about who was pulling the strings and she replied:

The Waltons are behind the efforts to maintain indefinite state control beyond the five years allowed in state law. The State Board of Ed member (Chad Pekron) who proposed the limitations on returning LRSD local control (no collective bargaining, and no filing lawsuits) was appointed by our governor just a few months ago, when Jay Barth’s term ended. Chad Pekron stayed on the board only long enough to implement these “guard rails” before the Waltons called him home to the Walmart home office as Lead Counsel – Appellate. https://twitter.com/chadpekron/status/1233402726832316421?s=21

This is not democracy. This is colonialism.

Rev./Dr. Anika Whitfield of Grassroots Arkansas issued this stern complaint against school board member Chad Pekron:

In case any of you reading this post for one minute thinks/thought that Gov. @AsaHutchinson is not working the plan of the billionaire Walton family, the Stephens, Hussman and other millionaires to profit off the backs of African American/Black and Latinx American children and families by destroying the LRSD and public schools in Arkansas, think again.

Atty @ChadPekron was appointed to the AR State Board of Education in July 2019, the same time the State Board of Education should have been preparing the LRSD community for a November 2019 school board election.

***We still don’t have an elected school board five years after the state stole the LRSD from our community.***

What unfolded in his short time as a State Board of Education director/member was a planned distraction. Pekron appeared to be one of the few board members who realized that the LRSD community was being attacked unfairly. But, just when you thought he might have a heart for justice (considering he is an attorney), he was the one, in the end, who pulled out the dagger and bludgeoned the hope for local control to be restored to the LRSD and justice to be realized civilly.

Not sure how this parent of five children can rest any night knowing he has caused so much trauma and destruction in the lives of tens of thousands of children, their families, their educators, and their neighborhoods?

Atty #ChadPekron, would you ever stand for any attorney, Governor or billionaires denying your children, family and community their human rights, Democracy and justice as you participated in so ruthlessly doing to innocent children and families in Little Rock?

Shame on you. SHAME on you!

Local activists who fight to return democratic control refuse to bow to the powerful Walton family, who own the governor and the legislature.

Mike Deshotels reviews the past several years of “reform,” funded by the Walton Family and Michael Bloomberg, and declares that every part of it has failed.

Deshotels writes that the suspension of recess so that students could have more time for test prep led to lower test scores!

He writes:

Why isn’t constant drilling on test taking skills at the expense of recess, PE, art, music, vocational education, and other “less important” instruction producing higher test scores? Maybe because the current trend to ignore fundamental child development principle’s is harmful in every way, including killing the joy of schooling for both children and teachers! Teachers in Finland, whose students perform at the top of the rankings on international achievement tests, routinely take young children outdoors where they can play, investigate nature and develop normally as they are programmed by their genes to do. Why do American reformers insist on counteracting nature and instead have transformed our education system to motivation killing test drudgery?

It was equally stupid to remove teachers from the decision-making process and leave it to legislators and the state education department. What a bad idea!

This outrageous trampling on the rights and critical input of the teaching profession in education decisions has actually resulted in the opposite of what our non-educator reformers said they wanted to do. Do you think our government can stop the Corona virus by ignoring the recommendations of the highly trained experts in disease prevention? The same is true of refusing to listen to real teachers about education reform. Do you believe, as the reformers would have you believe, that education reform in Louisiana is really working in preparing students for college and careers? Are you willing to ignore the most recent devastating revelation by our own Board of Regents that after all the reforms imposed on K-12 education in Louisiana, only 18 out of one hundred of our students will attain a college degree of any kind. Not even a two year associate’s degree! These are the worst results I have ever seen! Don’t blame the teachers. Teacher attended the legislative committee proposing these changes by the thousands to protest these untested ideas, only to be scolded for having the nerve to come to Baton Rouge on a school day (but that was the only time the Education committee was meeting!). Now the chickens are coming home to roost and thousands of our most dedicated teachers have left the profession.

Who has been making decisions? The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, exactly the worst people to decide how to educate the state’s children.

The stranglehold over control of public education by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry promises even more failure with the upcoming appointment of John White’s replacement.
Make no mistake about it, LABI has had almost total control over K-12 education for over 4 years since they used Michael Bloomburg’s and Walton family contributions to totally purchase all the BESE elected positions. They have made nothing but bad decisions with all this power. The school privatization they pushed has been almost a total failure with data showing that students who stay in their public schools do significantly better than they do when they move to a voucher or charter school.

Now LABI is preparing to pick the state’s next superintendent to succeed the failed John White, who mastered the art of spinning data to make it look good when it wasn’t. Of course, they are pushing White’s loyal assistant.

Let’s look at some of the real results of LABI supported reforms. On their web site, LABI claims that Louisiana is closing the achievement gap between privileged and underprivileged students. Data demonstrates instead that the exact opposite is true. They are also dead wrong claiming that ACT scores are improving. LABI is now down to apparently basing its education policies on wishful thinking rather than evidence.

The same is true of teacher evaluations based on student test scores using our defective state tests. LABI has insisted that Louisiana evaluate its teachers partially on student test scores. But all the data proves that the VAM system used is unstable and inaccurate. So a couple of years ago I got thrown off of a state committee studying changes to VAM because I had the nerve to state on my blog that LABI was like the dog that caught the truck with this whole VAM fiasco. They don’t have any idea what to do with VAM but they will never admit they were wrong. Meanwhile some very competent and dedicated teachers have had their careers ruined by VAM and thousands of great teachers have left the profession.

Louisiana has been fully in the grips of the Disruption Machine. It has fallen to the bottom of NAEP, which John White hailed as “proof” that the state had enacted higher standards. More failure like that and Louisiana will fall below Alabama and New Mexico, the lowest performing states.

Louisiana has bought into all the favorite remedies of “reform” (aka disruption), and there is nothing to show for it but failure, propaganda, and lies.

The Walton Family Foundation is the fruit of the Walmart chain. It was created by the Waltons, one of the richest families in the world. The three senior members of the Walton family–Alice Walton, Jim Walton, and Rob Walton–have a collective net worth in excess of $150 billion. There is a younger generation of Waltons whose wealth is not included in that total. The Walton family increases its wealth by $4 million an hour, every hour of every day.

The Walton Foundation has a few causes in which it concentrates its giving. Reforming K-12 education is one of the major areas for giving.

The Walton Foundation is the biggest single private funder of charters schools and vouchers in the United States.

In 2018, it gave $210 million to a long list of grantees to promote its K-12 goals, especially privatization of public schools via charters and vouchers.

In the same year, it increased that giving by another $238.6 million, in a section of its website called “Special Projects,” many of which went to the same K-12 charters and vouchers, or advocacy for charters and vouchers.

I am leaving it to you to review the list of grants. What do you see that is interesting or surprising? Some years I read the entire list. Now I am asking you to do it and report back.

The only other source of funding at this scale is the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program, which gave $440 million in 2018 to launch new charter schools, most of which went to large corporate charter chains like KIPP, IDEA, and Success Academy in New York City. The original federal program, created in 1994, was intended to launch start-up charters that needed a financial boost, not to build financial behemoths to replace public schools. Under DeVos, the CSP has become a juggernaut to disrupt communities and states, whether or not they want charters. New Hampshire, for example, got the largest single state grant of $46 million, and its Democratic-controlled legislature has thus far refused to accept the money, which would double the number of charters in the state and knock a huge hole in the financing of public schools.