Education Funding

Charter Sector to Get $1 Billion From Walton Family Foundation

By Arianna Prothero — January 08, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A heavyweight funder in K-12 education, the Walton Family Foundation, announced it is doubling down on its investments in school choice with a $1 billion plan to help expand the charter school sector and other choice initiatives over the next five years.

That investment will match what the foundation has poured into K-12 initiatives since it first started its education philanthropy 20 years ago.

In a new report detailing its five-year strategic plan, the foundation identified 13 cities and states it intends to work in—a decision it says was driven by growing demand for new schools and research showing academic gains among some charter school students.

“When we look at charter performance in the urban core, in parts of the country that have the most perniciously unfixable academic outcomes in the country, we see exciting breakthroughs of charter schools at scale,” said Marc Sternberg, the director of the foundation’s K-12 education program."It’s a combination of results and a surge in demand that conveyed to us that there’s a real opportunity to have impact.”

A June study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that students in charter schools in 41 cities significantly outperform their district counterparts in reading and math, while the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools estimates that more than 1 million students are currently on waiting lists for charters.

Big Footprint

The Walton Family Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Walmart founder Sam Walton’s heirs and long has been a major supporter of school choice.

(The Walton Family Foundation provides grant support for Education Week’s coverage of school choice and parent-empowerment issues.)

One can hardly turn around in the charter school sector without bumping into a benefactor of the Walton Family Foundation. Nearly one-quarter of all charter schools nationally have received startup funds from it, according to the report.

In addition to charters, the foundation supports private school choice and regular school districts willing to dip their toes into school choice.

This newest round of funding will focus on expanding school choice options in low-income communities in cities such as Los Angeles, and New Orleans, developing teachers and school leaders, and supporting strategies to help parents navigate school choice.

The Walton Family Foundation was among the first major K-12 philanthropists to invest in charter schools, and has helped shape the sector as it is today. “They’ve played a real role in pushing for the growth of the charter management sector and networks of charter schools in order to prioritize going to scale, as they like to refer to it,” said Jeffrey R. Henig, a political science and education professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and co-editor of the book The New Education Philanthropy.

But the foundation’s investment strategy is changing.

Initially, it focused on creating competition in K-12 to improve the overall system. The foundation’s latest report says it has learned that’s not enough. Parents need help in choosing schools—such as citywide enrollment systems, said Sternberg.

“Families need access to real-time information. Families need easy transportation options. We need government to do its job and authorize high-quality schools,” he said. “We now know that there are some key enablers outside of the school that have to be in place.”

But the $1 billion announcement has not come without its critics. Among them: the American Federation of Teachers, which released a report last June saying Walton’s investments in charters are irresponsible.

“This is not about public charters ... or about ensuring parents have great choices for their kids,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.

“This is about the fundamentally flawed Walmart model that destabilizes and diminishes public education.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 13, 2016 edition of Education Week as Charter Sector to Get $1 Billion Boost From Walton

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding School Districts Are Starting to Spend COVID Relief Funds. The Hard Part Is Deciding How
A new database shows districts' spending priorities for more than $122 billion in federal aid are all over the place.
8 min read
Educators delivering money.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Education Funding The Political Spotlight on Schools' COVID Relief Money Isn't Going Away
Politicians and researchers are among those scrutinizing the use and oversight of billions in pandemic education aid.
7 min read
Business man with brief case looking under a giant size bill (money).
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Education Funding Here's How Schools Can Use Federal COVID Aid to Solve Bus Driver and Other Transportation Woes
The Education Department outlines districts' options for using relief money to solve nationwide problems in getting kids to and from school.
2 min read
Students catch their bus near Ambridge Area Senior High School on the first day of Pennsylvania's mask mandate for K-12 schools and day care centers on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, in Ambridge, Pa.
Students catch their bus near Ambridge Area Senior High School in Ambridge, Pa., earlier this year on the first day of Pennsylvania's mask mandate for K-12 schools.
Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
Education Funding High Schoolers to Decide How to Spend $1.5 Million in COVID Funding
State officials called Connecticut's new Voice4Change campaign “a first-in-the-nation statewide student civic engagement initiative.”
1 min read
Image is an illustration of a school receiving financial aid.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: E+, Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty)