by Max Brantley
Wow, when the Walton family — which has put more than $1 billion into "education reform" through its foundation and spent untold millions more in separate political activties — indicates it's going to increase its political effort it's time for political opponents to build a bomb shelter.
The Walton Family Foundation is driven by the urgent need to dramatically raise student achievement, particularly in low-income neighborhoods across our nation. Our board and staff are proud of how we’ve helped cultivate today’s education reform movement by investing more than $1 billion in initiatives that expand parental choice and equal opportunity in education.
As our board reflects on the movement’s recent gains and momentum, they see many new and compelling opportunities to help accelerate the pace of reform. In order to make the most of those opportunities, the board has decided to further expand its leadership role in education reform. Here’s what is taking place:
* Several Walton family members are increasing their individual engagement in both philanthropic and political endeavors related to improving K-12 education. All political activity will be conducted separate and outside of the foundation operations.
* As a result, the family will be expanding its staff capacity to guide and manage its increasing role in education reform.
As part of the process to strengthen the family’s leadership role, Jim Blew, who has advised on the foundation’s K-12 education reform team since 2005, will focus on working directly with individual Walton family members to implement some specific philanthropic projects. Separately, he will execute a political strategy to maximize the current momentum for reform.
* As Jim takes on this important new role, the foundation is initiating a nationwide search for a Director of K-12 Education Reform. The search is being led by Russell Reynolds Associates, and all inquiries regarding the position may be directed to Walton@RussellReynolds.com. We anticipate that several outstanding candidates will show strong interest in the director’s position. We are also looking for talented individuals to fill several other positions on our education reform team. For more information on these opportunities, please visit www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/about/job-openings.
Applicants must believe that unions are bad; vouchers are good; charter schools are good and mustn't be subject to the same scrutiny as conventional public schools; standardized test scores are to be taken as gospel; democratically elected school boards are bad for education; state education boards that take charter school applications seriously must be sidestepped and new agencies created that don't take the review so seriously; public universities must teach this dogma and reject countervailing views, and, finally, might makes right.
For a relative pittance, the Walton family has rented sufficient Arkansas legislators to control committees that generally determine the fate of school legislation in Arkansas. It has funded multiple private organizations to carry this message around the state, such as Arkansans for Education Reform. It has expropriated the name, A Plus Arkansas, of a devoted nonprofit organization working to teach arts in the school, for its own purposes and refused to relinquish it. That's the Walton way. Money doesn't just talk, it shouts. And now they're going to spend more on politics? Whew. I guess the new legislature could just outsource the whole damn public school system to Bentonville and be done with it.
HOWEVER: John Brummett Twitters that Gov. Mike Beebe fielded a charter school question. With the Walton forces spoiling to end state regulation of charters and explode the numbers he reportedly says if something isn't broke, why fix it? Hmmmm.