The Walton Family Foundation, which is spending tens of millions to promote charter schools, school vouchers and destruction of teacher unions and conventional public school districts that have them, is adding a high-profile New Yorker to its bureaucracy.

Marc Sternberg, senior deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is going to work for the Waltons as director of the “K-12 Systemic Education Reform Focus Area.” He was in charge of charter school development in New York.


The Walton news release follows in full on the jump.

Here’s some timely context, related to Bill De Blasio’s nomination as a Democrat to succeed Bloomberg:


Two days ago NYC Mayoral Candidate de Blasio (the frontrunner for Tuesday’s Democratic primary) announced his support for a moratorium on ‘co-locating’ charter schools into buildings already occupied by neighborhood schools. If ‘co-locating’ sounds reasonable, well it’s because the practice was given a deceptively anodyne title.

NYC co-locations are really hostile takeovers (sometime in whole, sometimes in part) of zoned neighorhood schools. Kids attending then’co-located’ neighborhood schools are kicked out of their classrooms and forced into yet more crowded classrooms. Charter schools don’t pay rent, often get the best facilities, and cherry pick the use of ‘shared space’. They often reject students who don’t fit in their managers’ model of the right sort of student.

Wrote Gotham Schools, which noted Sternberg had been involved in education planning for moves after his departure:

The department has asked the Panel for Educational Policy to sign off on dozens of new schools and space-sharing arrangements to begin in 2014 or beyond. But those plans could be in jeopardy regardless of the panel’s vote this year, as Bill de Blasio, the Democratic candidate for mayor, has said he would cancel any space planning that the department does between now and the end of the year that he deems negative for schools.

Sternberg’s level of involvement in those changes — which map closely to Walton’s priorities — over his final few weeks at the department remains unclear. A department spokeswoman said Sternberg had consulted with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board to ensure that his ties with Walton would not compromise planning that takes place now.

…More broadly, Sternberg’s portfolio at the department is directly in de Blasio’s line of fire. Sternberg oversaw opening and closing schools and was instrumental in identifying space for charter schools to expand in public school buildings. (After a state Supreme Court judge gave a light to a set of school closures in 2011, he invited colleagues at the department to celebrate at a happy hour.)

How well are New York charter schools doing, by the way? Worse than conventional schools on the new common core-based testing in New York.


Performance doesn’t count so much to the Waltons when the word “charter” is in your name, of course. A Walton-financed lobby is pushing to hire a Texas-based charter school operator, Responsive Education Solutionssingled out by a Stanford University study for mediocre performance to run a white-flight middle school the Walton lobby is pushing to establish in West Little Rock. If it says charter and it hurts the Little Rock School District, that’s all the Walton moneybags need to know. Sternberg is a fitting addition, based on the New York experience. Build charters; harm existing schools; have an alibi ready if the scores don’t match the hype. And, throw cocktail parties on news of public school closures.


For the last two decades, our family foundation has pioneered efforts across this country to ensure that all children – regardless of family income or zip code – have access to a high-quality education. Our work is guided by my grandfather’s belief that education is the path to achieving the American dream and is inspired by the vision of my late uncle John Walton. In our many years of working with a strong collection of heroic and hard-working partners from across the country, we’ve learned what is possible when we put the interest of children first. As we enter the next frontier of our work, we are more optimistic and more committed than ever to deepening our involvement in this work, and to accelerating the pace of change in American education.

As we pursue this work, we are fortunate to have a talented and passionate foundation staff that advises us as we set our investment strategy, and then undertakes the hard work of bringing it to life and producing impressive results. This week, we announced a new addition to this team. Marc Sternberg, currently senior deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, will join the foundation as director of our K-12 Systemic Education Reform Focus Area.


Marc’s experience in education began as a Teach For America corps member serving in a South Bronx middle school. Today, he is an accomplished advocate for the needs of all students, having served in the classroom, the principal’s office, the district office and the White House. Education leaders from across the country attest to the powerful combination of Marc’s talent and passion – a perfect complement to my family’s strong belief in the right of every American child to have access to a high-quality education. We are encouraged by the current momentum for change and excited about the many new opportunities in front of us. With Marc’s experience and leadership, along with our talented staff and passionate partners, we know we can unlock the boundless potential of a generation of students in scores of cities across our great nation.


Carrie Walton Penner