Walton Family Foundation announced in a news release today
that it would "support" with an undisclosed amount of money establishment of an "independent school" in Bentonville.
The communications team was in a meeting when I called to confirm, but independent school traditionally means private school. That is, they are financed by tuition and private money, not public funds.
The school is expected to begin with middle and high school grades, but a timeline for opening and more specifics aren't expected until spring.
Dr. Clayton Marsh, currently the deputy dean of the college at Princeton University, will go to work as head of the school in January.
The foundation said an independent school was part of its strategy for providing high-quality education in the region, including through charter schools and traditional public schools. Said a release:
The school will also offer a challenging curriculum, small classes, a diverse student body and distinctive architecture.
It occurs to me that an elite private school also fits with the strategy outlined in a Washington Post wonkblog article
about the urbanization of Bentonville — the addition of big city-style features that would make the city more attractive to quality recruits for Walmart's headquarters.
With $2.4 billion in assets at the end of 2013 (and plenty more where that came from), the Foundation won't be hard-pressed to get a school off the ground in Bentonville.
NOTE: The public will be indirectly subsidizing this school. The Walton Family Foundation has been a handy tax avoidance construct for retaining control of Walmart and contributions to the foundation also enjoy favorable tax treatment.