It’s going to take lots of money for the school reform movement to continue the decline in influence of the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers (which spend $167 million in 2010-2011 alone on maintaining their clout). Which explains why the Walton Family Foundation stepped up its own school reform efforts in 2011. While the $159 million spent by the nation’s second-biggest school reform philanthropist is only a one percent increase over 2010, it really went big on public policy and advocacy efforts. Last year, Walton devoted $60 million to advocacy groups, a 14 percent increase over 2010. This includes $1.8 million to the year-old 50CAN, the school reform advocacy outfit formed by former ConnCAN executive Mark Porter Magee; $1 million to Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst; and $250,000 for Americans For Prosperity, the conservative outfit whose Pennsylvania affiliate has been supporting currently stillborn voucher and voucher-like tax credit efforts there. Walton also tossed $162,800 to the Pioneer Institute, which has opposed efforts in Massachusetts and other states to implement Common Core reading and math standards; and handed off $500,000 to the Mind Trust, the Indianapolis-based reform outfit that is pushing for mayoral control of schools in that city.
The increases in funding for those efforts isn’t’t surprising. Walton, like Gates, is looking to further advance policy and gain support for reform on the ground. This likely includes looking at funding media outlets. Editorial Projects in Education, the non-for-profit that publishes Education Week, received $150,000 in 2011.
Parent Power groups, which have been touted by one of Walton’s top education players, Bruno Manno, have gotten some major support. Parent Revolution (whose executive director, Ben Austin, is featured in this month’s The Conversation) received $1.2 million from Walton, more than double the $500,000 it received in 2010, while the Black Alliance for Educational Options and its Milwaukee chapter received $871,000, an 16 percent hike. Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina picked up $625,000, a 19 percent increase over the previous year.
Meanwhile Walton is pouring less into launching and sustaining individual charter schools and into K-12 scholarships, areas in which it has yielded great success. Walton donated $63 million to charters in 2011, a 10 percent decline from 2010; the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which is categorized in the advocacy line item, garnered $11 million, a 19 percent decline. Among the new recipients: The MATCH Community Day charter school in Boston ($250,000) and Goodwill Industries’ two charters in Indianapolis (under Goodwill Education Initiatives), which got $500,000. KIPP Foundation, whose charters are among the moat prominent in the nation, received $6.4 million, a 25 percent decline.
Dropout Nation will provide additional analysis of Walton’s numbers later this week. As we always say, it’s not about money, but what is done with it that matters.