by David Safier
Wanna get your message out about where education should be heading? Well, if you're part of the "education reform" movement, meaning the conservative/corporate "education reform/school choice" movement — you know, dismantling public education by cutting funding and demonizing teachers unions while pushing for ever more vouchers and charter schools — it's easy. There's lots of money belonging to a whole lot of very rich folks that's yours for the asking. Case in point: the Walton family.
The Waltons own Walmart. Four of the descendants of founder Sam Walton have a combined worth of $140 billion. On the Forbes 400 richest people in America list, they're numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9, with the Koch brothers just above them (numbers 3 and 4) and Michael Bloomberg just below (number 10). Their Walton Foundation gives away lots of money every year, close to $300 million in 2013. More than half of the money, $164 million, is listed under the category, "Systemic K-12 Education Reform Grants."
I wrote two recent posts about the possibility of Teach for America coming to Sunnyside School District, here and here. TFA received the largest single Walton Foundation contribution, $20 million. Next highest is Charter Fund Inc.: $14.5 million. Then comes the KIPP Foundation, which runs a string of highly rated charter schools (their high rating is open to question, by the way): $8.8 million. Next is the Children's Scholarship Fund, which spreads around vouchers: $8.6 million. Then comes the California Carter School Association: $5.6 million.
A mere $620,000 goes directly to Arizona institutions that I could find, $400,000 to the Arizona Charter Schools Association and $220,000 to the Arizona Autism Charter School.
Not surprisingly, with a total of $164 million, the list of grantees goes on and on. Here are some groups that get more than a million whose names I'm familiar enough with to know they're pillars of the "education reform" community.
Excellent Education Development, Inc., $3.5 million
Students First, $3.4 million
Alliance for School Choice, Inc., $3.1 million
Education Reform Now, Inc., $2.8 million
Building Excellent Schools, Inc, $2.8 million
Pacific Charter School Development, Inc., $2 million
Parent Revolution, Inc., $2 million
Newark Charter School Fund, $1.9 million
NewSchools Venture Fund NSVF, $1.9 million
National Association of Charter School Authorizers. $1.8 million
Black Alliance for Educational Options, $1.3 million
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, $1.3 million
Charter Fund - d/b/a CSGF Tennessee, $1 million