Why do the Waltons care about education?
Who’s involved? Who are they connected to?
- John Walton: Until his death in 2005, John Walton coordinated the education work of his family and family’s foundation. Most notably, he and the late Republican financier Ted Forstmann co-founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which funds private school educations for low-income children, and he assisted in the creation of the right-wing advocacy group Alliance for School Choice. He was also a shareholder in a for-profit school development company  that went bankrupt in 2006.
- Carrie Walton Penner: Penner, who graduated from a private boarding school and attended two elite universities, sits on the boards of the KIPP Foundation (to which the Walton Family Foundation recently gave $25 million) and the California Charter Schools Association. She is also on the boards of the Alliance for School Choice—a voucher advocacy group—and its lobbying and political affiliate. Penner has a degree from the Stanford University School of Education, but has apparently never worked on the front line of education as a teacher.
- Greg Penner: Greg Penner, Carrie Walton Penner’s husband, is on the National Board of Directors for Teach for America, and is a director of the Charter Growth Fund, a “non-profit venture capital fund” investing charter in schools.
- Christy Walton: Christy Walton is now the co-chair of the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which her late husband co-founded.
- Annie Proietti: Jim Walton’s daughter, Annie Walton Proietti, works for a KIPP school in Denver.
What are they trying to accomplish? What are they funding?
- Wisconsin: Many of the Walmart heirs have furthered their interests in school privatization by funding Republican candidates for state office in Wisconsin, a state none of them lives in. As the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported in September 2011, six members of the family were among the top 10 individual contributors to winning state legislative candidates in the 2010 elections that put Republicans in control of the state government. Under the first budget passed by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-majority legislature, funding for public schools was cut by $800 million over two years, while funding for voucher programs that funnel public money to private schools increased by $17 million over two years. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has the first and largest voucher program in the country, and the Walton Family Foundation provides substantial funding to School Choice Wisconsin, the state’s primary advocate for vouchers.
- Louisiana: In October 2011, Carrie and Greg Penner, who live in California, each donated $5,000 to Kira Orange Jones, a candidate for the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). Orange Jones, the Teach for America head in New Orleans who was elected to the BESE in this fall’s election, is said to have “[run] as the embodiment of post-Katrina reform efforts in New Orleans”—reform efforts that have been focused on charter schools and school privatization. Greg Penner is on the board of Teach for America.
- California: In 2006, Greg Penner contributed $250,000 to a campaign against proposed Proposition 82. The proposition, sponsored by actor and director Rob Reiner, sought to establish a universal preschool system in California for four-year-olds by placing an additional income tax on individuals making more than $400,000 a year, and couples making in excess of $800,000.