Walton Family Foundation Invests $157 Million in K-12 Education Reform in 2010

Jun 28, 2011, 10:30 ET from Walton Family Foundation

Foundation focuses on expanding parental choice, especially in low-income communities, in order to inspire all schools to improve – ultimately increasing student achievement

BENTONVILLE, Ark., June 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today the Walton Family Foundation announced investments totaling more than $157 million in education reform initiatives for 2010 – a $23 million increase over 2009, in which education reform grants totaled $134 million. Grants were made to organizations and programs that empower parents, particularly in low-income communities, to choose among quality, publicly funded schools for their children.

"The Walton Family Foundation operates with a sense of urgency regarding the need to raise student achievement, particularly in low-income communities," said Jim Blew, who leads the foundation's K-12 education reform efforts. "The foundation invests to expand the right of all parents to have access to quality schools, regardless of type. When all parents have the ability to choose quality schools for their children, a competitive dynamic emerges that can inspire the broader school system to improve, helping transform public education in our nation."

Having invested more than $1 billion in education reform, the Walton Family Foundation is the largest donor to initiatives that support parental choice and competition within education. This focused investment strategy is intended to spur increased achievement in several local public school systems. The foundation believes that when families are empowered with quality choices and information, they can help transform public education in their local community and the nation.

The foundation focuses on seven regions throughout the nation that serve high concentrations of low-income families but don't offer high-performing schools to all its students. They include Albany, Denver, East and South Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Newark and Washington, D.C.

The foundation has three key initiatives in its investment strategy. Investments by grant making initiative are as follows:

Shaping Public Policy

The foundation's "Shaping Public Policy" initiative builds the capacity of organizations to help enact, strengthen and protect programs that empower parents to choose among high-performing schools. These investments lead to stronger public charter schools and K-12 scholarship programs, as well as greater public access to better information about school and teacher performance.

Creating Quality Schools

The "Creating Quality Schools" initiative establishes new, high-quality schools of choice. Through these investments, the foundation supports both proven and promising groups seeking to start or expand schools of choice.

Improving Existing Schools

The "Improving Existing Schools" initiative helps reformers respond constructively to increased competition. The foundation focuses on improving teacher effectiveness and addressing weaknesses in the governance, management and instructional performance of traditional, public charter and private schools.

All three initiatives are designed by the foundation to work together and support each other. Shaping public policy is designed to accelerate the creation of new, good schools. In turn, students and families in the new schools can help shape public policy. Similarly, the foundation learns from the practices in new quality schools with the goal of transferring those to existing schools.

The foundation started investing in New Orleans schools following Hurricane Katrina, beginning in 2006 – helping create a school system where all children have choice and 70 percent of public school students attend public charter schools. New Orleans schools have improved student achievement and have closed the proficiency gap between the city and the state by 11 percentage points over the past three years. http://www.doe.state.la.us/data/

The foundation has also invested in Washington, D.C. for more than 10 years, and today more than two-thirds of district families are exercising choice by choosing a charter, private or district school other than the one assigned to them because of their zip code. Between 2003 and 2009, DC had the largest improvement nationally in NAEP performance in both reading and math at grade 4; and at grade 8, DC's increase in NAEP performance ranked 6th in reading and 4th in math. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/

The foundation looks to a number of metrics to determine progress, including the increasing number of high-quality schools available to low-income parents. Ultimately, student achievement determines success, and the long-term goal is to raise student achievement and close the persistent performance and attainment gap between low-income children and their affluent peers.

About the Walton Family Foundation and K-12 Education Reform

Driven by the urgent need to dramatically raise student achievement, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, the Walton Family Foundation has invested more than $1 billion to date in initiatives that expand parental choice and equal opportunity in education. Empowering parents to choose quality schools, regardless of type - traditional public, private or public charter school - will help spur the bold transformation of our national K-12 system of public education. Our nation's children will only reach their potential in today's global economy by having access to a high-quality, publicly funded education. Visit the foundation at www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org.

About the Walton Family Foundation

When Sam and Helen Walton launched their modest retail business in 1962, one of their goals was to increase opportunity and improve the lives of others along the way. This guiding principle has played a pivotal role in the phenomenal growth of their small enterprise into a global retail leader. This principle also drives the philanthropic mission of the Walton Family Foundation.

Today the foundation is more focused than ever on sustaining the Walton's timeless small-town values and deep commitment to making life better for individuals and communities alike. By working with grantees and collaborating with other philanthropic organizations, the foundation is dedicated to making a positive difference in three focus areas:

• Systemic K-12 education reform

• Freshwater and marine conservation

• Quality of life initiatives in our home region

During 2009, the foundation invested more than $378 million in domestic and international projects that addressed significant social and environmental issues, and sought to create exciting new opportunities. The foundation continues to implement and expand grant making to fund a positive difference in many diverse communities – and in the lives of the people who call them home. For more information, visit www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org.

2010 Education Reform Grants                   $157,220,283

By Initiative

• Shaping Public Policy                                   $52,487,447

• Creating Quality Schools                              $63,846,907

• Improving Existing Schools                          $38,810,815

Research and Evaluation Grants                 $2,075,114

Top Strategic Investments Include:

• Teach For America                                      $16,652,436

• Charter School Growth Fund                       $12,533,526

• DC Public Education Fund                           $10,000,000

• KIPP Foundation                                            $8,650,000

• California Charter Schools Assoc.                 $3,940,652

Grant Totals by Community

• Albany                                                            $2,183,195

• Denver                                                           $4,211,776

• Los Angeles                                                 $11,981,508

• Milwaukee                                                      $5,616,634

• Newark                                                           $3,643,750

• New Orleans                                                  $4,834,962

• Washington, D.C.                                        $16,998,745

2009 K-12 Education Reform Grants      $134,119,354

2009 By Initiative

• Shaping Public Policy                                $42,331,966

• Creating Quality Schools                           $67,646,143

• Improving Existing Schools                       $21,582,870

Click here for full list of 2010 K-12 Education Reform Grantees

SOURCE Walton Family Foundation