Charter Money: Where and Whence It Flows

The Walton Family Foundation proudly announced yesterday that it can now claim sponsorship of one in four charter school start-ups since 1997, investing more than a billion dollars in 1500 charter launches. In DC alone, the investment has been $16.4 million. DC lags behind only Chicago, at $24.6 million, and Los Angeles at $35.9 million in Walton financing of charter schools. See the Walton Family Fund press release, highlighting ways in which the Waltons are using their funds to reshape the U.S. education landscape.

Meanwhile, following up on a recent post about charter schools and resegregation, long-time education justice advocate Jan Resseger writes

In North Carolina charter schools are neither required to provide transportation nor participate in the federal free and reduced price lunch program. By failing to offer the services needed by the poorest children, charters are being permitted to appeal to children whose families have greater personal resources.

This type of financial and racial segregation is at least partly what the Walton Family so proudly funds.

How many of the jurisdictions subject to Walton largess have had thorough civic conversations about the influence of philanthropy on the structure of schooling options and on educational spending overall? This is a gift-horse whose teeth need careful examination.

For example: How many jurisdictions thoroughly consider how much of their hard-earned and limited tax money goes to highly paid staff members of private corporations?

For-Profit CEOs Receive Millions in Taxpayer Funding

In recent years, urban school districts around the country have been tightening their belts, closing schools, and otherwise disrupting the lives of children and their communities. All the while, huge sums are paid to private individuals via public funds in the name of school choice.

To take just one example, investment analysts note that K12 Inc., a publicly-traded for-profit education company, paid $21.4 million in compensation to its top employees last year. K12 earns the bulk of its U.S. profits by obtaining charter school funding and by selling online schooling programs to public school districts.

Former CEO Ron Packard, who recently left K12 to head a spin-off company, made some $19.5 million, between 2009 and 2013. His successor at K12, Nate Davis, earned over $9 million just last year. Thus millions upon millions in executive pay at K12 alone are funded by U.S. taxpayers. In addition, tax dollars are actively funding lobbying efforts on the part of such CEOs and their interests.

Transparency: A Child’s Right?

In this context, it’s particularly crucial to focus on the eighth of Civil Rights leader James Meredith’s newly released “American Child’s Education Bill of Rights”:

8. Transparency: A school where records of every dollar of taxpayer money spent are available for public inspection; where personally identifiable student information is not shared with outside parties without express parental consent; where parents and teachers are involved in school management and policy; and where core public school functions are not sold off to for-profit operators.
— American Children’s Education Bill or Rights

For more on these and related topics, TuneIn to the Education Town Hall on We Act Radio, Thursdays at 11 a.m. Eastern. Shows are archived here and on MixCloud for later listening. Share your own comments here.

[post updated 3:20 p.m., 2/6/2014]

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