The Walton Family Foundation announced today that it was going to contribute $250 million to help charter schools in 17 cities around the country, including Little Rock, with facility construction.
The idea is to make it even easier and more attractive for charter schools to lure students away from conventional public school districts.
The news release doesn’t identify specific recipients of money, but the Waltons have put money in virtually every charter school in Little Rock. A corporation with the same mailing address as Walton enterprises recently purchased the former Lutheran school on West Markham for a new location for Little Rock Prep, a charter school that to date has experience low academic performance and sketchy finances. Despite its track record, the state officials that oversee charter schools have endorsed its continued operation and move to bigger facilities, even as the department moved to take over the Little Rock School District for low scores by six of 48 district schools. Walton money also came in to save a speedy opening of the Quest Charter Middle School in Chenal Valley, which attracted a mostly white and higher income student body as an alternative to the closest middle school, virtually all black and low-income.
Recent analysis shows charter schools in Little Rock generally have not outperformed conventional public schools in growing the performance of poor and minority children.
Most states, including Arkansas, don’t provide money for charter facilities, through some small programs are anticipated in the next budget year.
The multi-billion-dollar foundation will provide money to nonprofit lenders to make loans that conventional lenders are sometimes unwilling to make. The Waltons will partner with the nonprofit Civic Builders to manage the so-called Building Equity Initiative.
eStem, with a massive expansion plan to add two campuses to its existing campus at Third and Louisiana, is one obvious potential recipient of Walton money for facilities. It has received Walton backing from its inception.
There’s plenty more money where this came from, of course.
If Walton ally Johnny Key’s Education Department continues to hollow out local school districts with charter school expansions, there will be abundant empty school buildings for the charter schools to take over for their expansion.
PS: Those failed Detroit charter schools I mentioned this morning? Surely they need more money. Because being a charter means never being held accountable, never having to say you’re sorry.
Diane Ravitch calls the Waltons’ latest “doubling down on failure.”