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.