To the Editor:
The leading indicator of school performance—poverty—affects nearly one-quarter of all children in the United States. This is unacceptable.
And yet Wal-Mart—the nation’s largest employer and the workplace of many parents—pays many of its workers absurdly little, and some need food stamps and donations to get by. A Canton, Ohio, Wal-Mart, in fact, set up an annual Thanksgiving food drive asking workers to donate food for co-workers who couldn’t afford Thanksgiving dinner. That’s chutzpah. No one who works full time should have to struggle to put food on the table.
Parents and teachers know what it takes for children to be strong, happy, and successful, and that’s nearly impossible to achieve for families caught in Wal-Mart’s low-road business model.
Compounding this, the Walton family, which owns the majority share of Wal-Mart stock, spends millions of dollars on campaigns to divert public education dollars to private operators of charter schools, which have not proven by any stretch of the imagination to be the solution for better student performance.
My younger students love Dr. Seuss. In The Lorax they read: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
There is no question that we can and must do better for our neighbors and children. It starts with the support of the community.
This school year, please join me in taking a small step and showing our commitment to good jobs that provide for our families and our students. Don’t buy your school supplies at Wal-Mart. Show our nation’s largest employer that, to earn our business, it must value and respect workers.
Steel Drum and Choir Director
James N. Gamble Montessori High School
The author is the second vice president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.
A version of this article appeared in the September 10, 2014 edition of Education Week as Cincinnati Teacher: Don’t Buy School Supplies at Wal-Mart