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United States Education Government The Almighty Buck Politics

25% of Charter Schools Owe Their Soul To the Walmart Store 233

Posted by timothy
from the so-you're-saying-this-bothers-you? dept.
theodp writes "Among the billionaires who helped Bill Gates pave the way for charter schools in WA was Walmart heiress Alice Walton. The Walton Family Foundation spent a whopping $158+ million in 2012 on what it calls 'systemic K-12 education reform,' which included $60,920,186 to 'shape public policy' and $652,209 on 'research and evaluation.' Confirming the LA Times' speculation about its influence, the Walton Foundation issued a press release Wednesday boasting it's the largest private funder of charter school 'startups,' adding that it has supported the opening of 1 in 4 charter schools in the U.S. since 1997 through its 1,500 'investments.' But as some charter school kids have learned the hard way, what the rich man giveth, he can also taketh away. For the time being, though, it looks like America's going to continue to depend on the tax-free kindness of wealthy strangers to educate its kids. For example, while it was nice to see the value of Shop Class recognized, the White House on Monday called on businesses, foundations and philanthropists to fund proposed 'Maker Spaces' in schools and libraries. Hey, when the U.S. Secretary of Education turns to corporate sponsors and auctions to fund his Mother's afterschool program for kids of low-income families in the President's hometown, don't look for things to change anytime soon."
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25% of Charter Schools Owe Their Soul To the Walmart Store

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  • by Virtucon (127420) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:13PM (#46197833)

    Due to a technicality Alice was let off of on a DUI charge just recently. [dailymail.co.uk] Maybe she should spend some of her $27 Billion on Drug and Alcohol education in the schools instead?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:25PM (#46197929)

      Not surprising. I went to a pretty excursive private school. (Not that may English reflects it.) We had one student pulled over for DUI. He got off because his parents hired a Private investigator to follow the arresting cop around. Turns out he liked to pick up prostitutes and take'em to an alley and return them.(I don't remember if he did this while on duty or not) He wasn't able to testify due to being on forced leave and since the high priced lawyer insisted on speedy trail the prosecution dropped the case.

  • by mbone (558574) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:16PM (#46197849)

    I have come to the conclusion that the charter school movement was conceived in sin. born in corruption and is too full of conmen and grifters to give it any support.

    There may be some decent, honest people trying to make things better in the movement, but it is not the way to bet.

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:18PM (#46197865)

    $60,920,186 to 'shape public policy'...

    AKA lobbying. What won't a politician do for money?

  • by bazmail (764941) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:20PM (#46197877)
    I'll bet they'll teach advanced shelf stacking techniques, door greeting, making do on low pay, turning your back on further education. etc. Walmart/Walton Foundation is NOT a charitable institution. Everything they do is profit through exploitation.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:59PM (#46198125)

      the U.S. Secretary of Education turns to corporate sponsors and auctions to fund his Mother's afterschool program

      I'm torn-- on one hand, what are you going to do, say "no, our education system won't take it"... on the other hand, what kind of strings are attached (or what kind of agenda comes along with the $)?

      I'm reminded of the Pete Seeger (RIP) song, "What Did You Learn In School Today? [youtube.com]" As corporations take over the role of governments, I think this song could probably be slightly modified...

      What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine? What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine?
      I learned to stack, I learned to greet!
      I learned that minimum wage is neat!
      'Course it keeps me an endless debtor,
      But Wal-Mart Saves Money, so I Live Better(TM)!
      That's what I learned in school today, that's what I learned in school.

    • by holly_ms (1382697)
      The Walton Family Foundation is a charitable institution, giving more than any other business. National Audubon Society, Harvard University, Georgetown University, Nature Conservancy, Inc., etc. What profit do they get for giving millions to these?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

        What profit do they get for giving millions to these?

        National Audubon Society - people appreciate birds more, so they'll buy birdseed at Walmart.

        Harvard University. Threefold: 1) Harvard alumni tend to be wealthy. They'll have more money to spend at Walmart and Sams Club. 2) They often start businesses. Businesses buy stuff at Walmart and supply stuff to Walmart. 3) They may employee some people. Those people may have kids who can stock shelves at Walmart.

        Georgetown University: They're trying to buy

      • by nbauman (624611)

        The Walton Family Foundation is a charitable institution, giving more than any other business. National Audubon Society, Harvard University, Georgetown University, Nature Conservancy, Inc., etc. What profit do they get for giving millions to these?

        Billionaires give money to Harvard University so that their kids can go to Harvard University.

        You don't think George W. Bush got into Harvard because of his SATs, do you?

  • Wow (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by sunking2 (521698)
    This site has really gone down the crapper.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It should be called SlashWhiners.

      Incessant whining about everything. It's like all the adults have been banished on only 5th graders are posting.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:33PM (#46197967)

    Maybe schools should raise some more corporate-sponsored cash by doing product placements. For example, it would be easy to monetize homework assignments:

    1a. Juan is planning a picnic. He buys packages of Sara Lee® brand 100% Wheat Home Style® Hot Dog Buns which each contain eight buns. He also buys packages of Osar Mayer® Jumbo Deluxe All-Beef Franks®, which each contain 10 wieners. What is the minimum number of Hot Dogs Juan needs to buy so that there are no unmatched buns or wieners?

    1b. Juan plans to put 1/2 ounce of Heinz® Sweet Dill® Relish on each hot dog. How many 12-oz jars of relish does he need to buy? What brand of mustard would best complement the relish: (a) Heinz® Classic Yellow Hot Dog® Mustard (b) some other non-specific mustard?

    1c. Extra credit: Juan asks his friend Latoya to buy ketchup for his picnic. List three benefits Latoya would receive if she bought genuine Heinz® Classic® Ketchup instead of the discount store brand. Explain how sometimes what appears to be the least expensive choice isn't the greatest value overall.

    • Between feeding the students corporate propaganda and government propaganda I certainly prefer the former. At least there will be many corporations fighting for what to feed them and not a single one.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Between feeding the students corporate propaganda and government propaganda I certainly prefer the former. At least there will be many corporations fighting for what to feed them and not a single one.

        No. There will be many corporations bidding. Only one will get to feed them. This is how it works already, with soda companies holding exclusive contracts to provide fountain drinks and sometimes even the vending machines on a campus.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:48PM (#46198049)

    My children go to a charter school and they are getting a far better education than they would at the failing local schools. My wife and I are both involved in the school and we both have a teaching background (I taught engineering at the college level for 4 years and my wife was a preschool teacher for 11 years, both sets of grandparents also taught public school for 20+ years). The teachers and organization of the charter school is light years beyond the local public school in delivering an effective learning experience for the kids. There are always a few bad apples, but anyone who tells you that charter schools as a whole are not far better than public schools is a liar in the tank for the teachers union or someone who has been brainwashed by their propaganda.

    The money that charter schools get from the taxes that we pay is a pittance compared to what the pathetic, failing state run public schools get. If we don't want charities funding charter schools maybe we should ban teachers unions and give parents vouchers that they can take to any school that is accredited. Let's also institute a ranking system based on the learning the students actually do so even the laziest parents can pick winner schools. That way charter schools won't have to beg for funding and will be on an even footing with public schools; the problem is the teachers unions don't want that because they know that inside of 10 years all of the public schools would be gone along with their power, massive union dues and a huge fundraising/advertising arm of the Democrat party. The bottom line is the teachers unions exist only to further their own power and enrich the teachers, regardless of how well they teach. Until we break those unions, our children's education will always be second place on the political landscape.

    They tried vouchers in DC and it has been an unmitigated success which is now trying to be shut down because the unions are scared spit-less that it will spread to other states.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:57PM (#46200065)

      Maybe the charter schools by you are good. The ones by me? Not so much. First of all, they get to pick and choose what students they accept. Inevitably, any student with special needs isn't accepted. (We had our son in a Montessori school for a bit years ago and we were pushed out. We suspected this was because our son required PT and OT services. Later we found out that all students with PT or OT were being pushed out but we felt pressure not to talk since the principal was friends with some people high up in the district.) This selective enrollment means that the public schools get a bigger percentage of students who need services. This costs more money, of course, but the charter schools don't need to pay for that.

      Next, there are the high stakes tests that New York has implemented. I'm opposed to those tests in general. They are administered by Pearson, not reviewed by ANYONE to see if they are appropriate, and don't show what students have learned. They only are used as a threat against teachers - if your kids do poorly, you might be out of a job. This means that the teachers teach to the test and toss aside anything that won't be on the test. However, the charter schools are exempt from this. They don't need to take these tests and so they can do what they want.

      Third is the fact that they pull money from public schools. Those same public schools that now need to spend more money on the higher percentage of student with special needs and who feel pressured to teach to the test are finding themselves with less and less money and more money flows to the charter schools instead.

      Finally, what tests the charter schools DO administer, they get to decide which results to publish. So if a few kids don't do well on the tests, those scores get tossed aside while the successful kids have their scores touted as the norm.

      This all combines to lead public schools to ruin while diverting more money to charter schools. It becomes a vicious cycle too. Charter schools look stellar with selective test reporting while the struggling public schools look bad. So more charter schools are opened and the public schools get less and less money. Rinse and repeat. Meanwhile, the kids who need special services get a second class education because the charter schools don't want to touch them. (Not that I'd want my sons in one of those.)

      Like I said, this might not be the case for the Charter schools by you, but by me this has been my experience. They are run by greedy corporations who see the public school system as a big piggy bank that they can suck dry and they will manipulate test results and lobby politicians as much as they need to to get those dollars.

  • Crystal Bridges (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @05:11PM (#46198217) Homepage
    That's not all Alice has done. My wife and I recently spent a few days at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art [crystalbridges.org], a world class museum in Bentonville, Arkansas created by Alice Walton, and had an incredible experience. "Located on 120 acres of native Ozark forest, Crystal Bridges' grounds invite visitors to enjoy the natural environment as a continuation of their museum experience. The Museum's distinctive architecture immerses visitors in the landscape, while three miles of nature trails encourage exploration and reflection." And admission is free.
  • Charter school... (Score:4, Informative)

    by BrookHarty (9119) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @05:30PM (#46198315) Homepage Journal

    Many many decades ago, I went to a charter school for k-6th grade. The school had to allow everyone in the area as part of its opening up in a richer suburb. I lived along the border and was included in the school map. School had computers while only the jr high and high schools. My parents could have never afforded to to send me to a private school with lower population sizes and computers. I was lucky. And being a poor rowdy kid, they never kicked me out. Lucky that's where I got my introduction into computers.

    Only thing I'd like to see is smaller classes, and charter schools on average have higher. This is supposedly with them kicking poor performing kids out. But charter schools differ so much, there is no "standard" model used. I think we can all agree smaller classrooms with more individual help is what schools should have, but thats gets very expensive. I'd rather take all those billions of dollars in state taxes on alcohol and marijuana taxes go to directly fund schools instead...

  • It looks like US education is moving towards a more efficient and profitable business model. Too bad learning outcomes aren't profitable.

    Next, the corporations will lobby to de-couple learning outcomes from awarding funding to privatised schools. It might work well for the school-to-prison pipeline; lots of profit to be had from funnelling children into correctional facilities.

  • by lfp98 (740073) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @07:26PM (#46198979)
    These charter-school folks have a long-term agenda, and that is the conversion of public education from a public service to a fully privatized profit center, with the added perk of eliminating teachers unions as a political force. A key factor in achieving this is that wealth inequality has become so extreme that local governments no longer have the resources to educate the nation's children, but billionaires do. Can parents and boards of education afford to say "no" when, in the face of decaying buildings and teacher layoffs, big-time donors come offering modern, well-staffed facilities, with all the latest IT and other equipment, if only you let the donors do it their way? Once the public school system is reduced to being merely a dumping ground for the worst, most disruptive and unresponsive students, the donors won't have to be so generous, they'll be making handsome profits as the contractors in a privatized fee-for-service education system. It's just like the 1990s when deep-pocketed for-profit HMOs offered healthcare at below-market rates. Once all the nonprofit hospitals and insurers were driven out of business, the for-profits jacked up premiums at double-digit rates for decades. It was a brilliant strategy, and it's happening all over again, in education.
    • This isn't just the charter school movement but the whole Common Core garbage as well. Common Core supporters claim that it was written by educators, but there were only two on the panel and they refused to sign the finished document. Meanwhile, we've been hearing over and over again how our kids are failing and how it's all the fault of teachers. Why? So companies like Pearson can swoop in to "save" us. They get paid big bucks to administer high stakes tests to show just how much students are learning

    • by Solandri (704621) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @12:51AM (#46200275)

      These charter-school folks have a long-term agenda, and that is the conversion of public education from a public service to a fully privatized profit center, with the added perk of eliminating teachers unions as a political force. A key factor in achieving this is that wealth inequality has become so extreme that local governments no longer have the resources to educate the nation's children, but billionaires do.

      Local governments have plenty of resources to educate the nation's children. The U.S. spends more on education per student than any other country in the world [ncee.org]. K-6 spending is 4th highest in the world, 7-12 is 5th highest (both about 40% more than the OECD average), and post-HS spending is highest in the world. The result of all this spending? Performance at or below the OECD average [theatlantic.com].

      The problem isn't lack of money. The schools are completely awash in it.

    • by khallow (566160)

      It's just like the 1990s when deep-pocketed for-profit HMOs offered healthcare at below-market rates.

      That's based on the unwarranted assumption that there actually is a market rate for health services.

  • Much like a city depends on fines for it's budget so will the government on philanthropy. The government would spend more on social causes if philanthropy did not exist. Cities would not have a vested interest in not reducing income from fines if it did not depend on it for its budget.
  • I'm confused. At first glance I thought the summary was saying that the Waltons were donating hundreds of millions to charter schools as an act of grand philanthropy. I'm sure the schools could use the money. But it looks more like the money is going toward lobbyists for charter schools and not charter schools themselves. Am I reading that right? I'm sure that's exactly what kids need.

    • Charter schools get their money from the public school system. The Waltons are giving money, not to open schools, but to "convince" politicians that what their failing school districts really need is to open a charter school and wind up giving even LESS money to the failing public schools. And if that didn't work, open a second or third charter school. And if the charter schools are failing, deploy the lobbyists to convince the politicians that it shouldn't be closed. (One charter school by us missed th

  • For the time being, though, it looks like America's going to continue to depend on the tax-free kindness of wealthy strangers to educate its kids

    America spends vast amounts of money on its public education system, but it's not yielding better outcomes.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]

    What these people who you denigrate as "wealthy strangers" are doing is provide a better, and usually less costly, alternative for education, after public schools have already sucked vast amounts of money out of the pockets of

  • In order to secure desires of the owner's of Walmart concerning how education is to be granted in the USA, everyone should accept higher prices at WalMart. Its not as if you have a choice in the matter anyway.

  • Bitch is worth $20+ billion. $158 million is what, like a half a day's pay? It's chump change for a Walton. Want to be a real humanitarian? Spend some of those billions ensuring your workers earn a living wage so their kids don't have to live in poverty while they're not attending one of your fancy expensive charter schools.

Overload -- core meltdown sequence initiated.

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