Here’s some useful news from Diane Ravitch on a multimillion dollar investment by the Walton Family Foundation in a Kansas City initiative she describes as a Trojan horse for school privatization.

To date, Kansas City has resisted a takeover of its public schools by private operators.


But the privatizers are back, with a new name, and a local native-born leader touting the virtues of the “portfolio model” and a “common enrollment application” for public schools and charter schools. The new approach is funded by the privatization-loving Walton Family Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation. OneApp, the common enrollment system is intended to confuse parents about the differences between public schools and charter schools, and give the appearance that they are the same. They are not. Charter schools choose their students; public schools do not. Charter schools may close without warning; public schools do not. Charter schools are not willing to take the students with the greatest needs; public schools are required to do so.

Not all are blinded by money.

Meanwhile, some remain wary of who is funding SchoolSmart. In addition to local philanthropies, SchoolSmart identifies the Walton Foundation as one of its core investors. Sufi said Hall, Kaufman, and Walton had together made a 10-year funding commitment of over $50 million.

“Philanthropy can have its own agenda too — that’s OK, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think everybody just needs to be aware,” said Wolfsie, the Kansas City school board member. “Funders, they have a say what [SchoolSmart KC’s] strategic direction probably will be — otherwise they may not fund.”

If history and experience are guides, charter schools will take the best students, and leave the rest for public schools, which have even fewer resources to educate them.

You’ll remember public school forces beat back 2015 legislation that would have enabled private takeover of the Little Rock School District. The Waltons can afford to play the long game and still have designs on the state-controlled Little Rock School District.


In short: what happens in Kansas City doesn’t necessarily stay in Kansas City.