The Walton money at work in school board races and in teacher training for Little Rock | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Walton money at work in school board races and in teacher training for Little Rock

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 8:03 AM

News from California on the continuing effort of charter school-supporting billionaires to take over public education:

Almost a half-million spent to control three school Board seats in Oakland. The groups spending the money include at least one financed in part by the Walton fortune. It's not the first school election in which the Waltons have played. Should Little Rock ever get a school board back, you can count on their money being spent here.

The spending is exempt from any limits on campaign contributions.

Gabriel Haaland, SEIU 1021's political coordinator, characterized the amounts of money being injected into Oakland's school-board races by pro-charter groups as part of the post-Citizen's United reality, a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court case that allows affluent donors, corporations, and other groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, so long as they don't directly communicate with the politicians they're supporting.
Walton money is at work politically across the bay in San Francisco, too.

Parents and community members in San Francisco have called recently concerned about an “astroturfing” organization that has received several hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Walton Family Foundation seeking to “organize” and “innovate” in the Bay. It appears that the billionaires boy club has taken to heart calls for community-based reform (at least the appearance) as an alternative to top-down reform.

However, standing in the way of the billionaires boys club are civil rights advocates from Journey for Justice, the Movement for Black Lives and the NAACP. I think it is important to understand that the the NAACP has recently stepped up it voice in the conversations about education.

The California NAACP has led the national charge for greater transparency and accountability in privately managed charter schools.
More here on that effort, which is getting some pushback.

Closer to home: I'm waiting on response to a document request to the University of Arkansas about a new Walton Family Foundation-funded program in the school "reform" department they finance at the University of Arkansas. It's been described to me as a master's degree program in "education equity" to better equip teachers in "urban" school districts — that is districts with a high percentage of minority and poor students. Superintendent Michael Poore of Little Rock confirms to me he's been meeting on the topic with Gary Ritter, who holds a Walton-endowed chair in the education reform unit; Jared Henderson, until a few months ago director of Teach for America in Arkansas; Tom Smith, a professor in the UA College of Education, and Jonathan Crossley, principal at Baseline Academy.

Ritter was reluctant to speak last week because of my past criticism of Walton involvement in actions damaging to the Little Rock School District (recently this has included financial support for a spate of new charter schools in neighborhoods with good schools and an oversupply of seats). But he said he'd be working with Walton Family Foundation resources to "hire and support high-quality teachers to work in the low-income TRADITIONAL public schools that need them the most. In my experience, when I (or WFF) engage in a project that you don’t find problematic, you don’t talk about it at all."

So there's a little talk based on what I know about what one source has said was an $11 million investment in a new master's program.

Poore, named to run the district after the state takeover by Education Commissioner Johnny Key, didn't mention any current classroom teachers joining the two meetings held so far, though Crossley was an award-winning classroom teacher before Baker Kurrus brought him into the administrative ranks. Poore said his meetings had just been general about better preparing Little Rock teachers and that he knew nothing of a specific program at UA.

I made my first request for documents from the UA on Nov. 29. As yet, none has been supplied.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Among the last words from Kenneth Williams: 'Finger Lickin' Good Fried Chicken'

    What's purported to be a final-words essay from condemned prisoner Kenneth Williams was distributed today by Deborah Robinson, a freelance journalist in Arkansas.  He reflects on his execution, his victims, reactions of inmates and big servings of fried chicken, which he says are given to all inmates on execution days.
    • Apr 27, 2017
  • Mitch Landrieu on the removal of Confederate tributes in New Orleans

    You want to hear the words of a strong mayor? Read the speech delivered by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on the removal of the last of four Lost Cause tributes in the city. THIS is a strong mayor. Brilliant.
    • May 22, 2017
  • Baseball fans have a new place to stay

    If you missed out on Razorback baseball home games this year because you couldn’t find a great place to stay, your problem is now solved: Staybridge Suites of Fayetteville is now fully renovated and located directly across from Baum Stadium, with free parking for hotel guests.
    • May 22, 2017

Slideshows

  • Arkansas vs Ole Miss at War Memorial stadium in Little Rock, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. After leading for much of the game, Arkansas lost 37-33 when Ole Miss scored the game winning Touchdown with less that 2 minutes left. 
  • Margaret Clark Adventure Park
    New sculptures, preschoolers play area dedicated in Riverfront Park in Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation