Waltons fund — surprise! — charter schools

The Walmart heirs have put a lot of their donations into charter schools for low-income students, reports the New York Times. The foundation also supports Teach for America.

It’s not exactly hot news. The Gates Foundation spends much more, focuses on changing education policy and is very, very influential.

The Times signals its left-wing bias, notes Ira Stoll on Reason. The Walton Foundation has “many tentacles” and funds “divisive” ideas, reports the Times. 

“Walton’s Mr. Sternberg, who started his career in Teach for America and founded the Bronx Lab School, a public school in New York City, does not apologize for Walton’s commitment to charter schools and vouchers.”

“Why would he apologize?” asks Stoll. He’s “helping to make schools better.”

The New York Times Company and its foundation support P.S. 111, the Adolph S. Ochs School in Manhattan, named after the family patriarch, reports Stoll. The school earned a grade of “D” for its school environment. A quality review observes “the principal acknowledges that teachers have not received written feedback this year.” Only 19 percent of the school’s sixth graders pass the state English test and only 24 percent of the school’s fifth graders pass the state math test.

About Joanne


  1. PhillipMarlowe says:

    “The Times signals its left-wing bias, notes Ira Stoll on Reason.”
    Too funny.
    Left wing bias.
    My friend Alexander Cockburn had fun with that “left wing” bias” line when he wrote “Press Clips” for the Village Vocie.

    • PhillipMarlowe says:

      The there’s the matter of Walton having the money from WalMart where they pay minimum wages.

    • Instead of name-dropping your friendship with a “mordant left-wing journalist” (from his NYT obit), how about addressing the specific issues raised?

      • PhillipMarlowe says:

        Sorry, Norm.
        Ira Stoll displays a lack of seriousness with his description of NYT as “left-wing.”
        What’s next, a dispassionate discussion of the racial issues raised by Donald Sterling’s exchange with his one time girlfriend.

        • Wait…are you trying to argue that the NY Times isn’t Leftwing? Tell that to Walter Duranty.

          Granted…it’s not Pravada…but for the U.S. the Times is as Left as it gets.

          • PhillipMarlowe says:

            The left wing NYT avoided covering East Timor.
            The left wing NYT removed Raymond Bonner from El Salvador.
            The left wing NYT hired Shirley Christian.
            The left wing NYT published Claire Sterling with her fantasies that the KGB tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II.
            The left wing NYT published Judy Miller, promoter of the Saddam has WMD fame.

          • Oh settle down Phillip. On your best day your “blind squirrel finding an acorn” examples of the New York Times evenhandedness will convince no one including yourself. If the New York Times finds it necessary to, from time to time, pay lip service to the concept of journalistic ethics that’s hardly a compelling case for the organization’s commitment to journalistic ethics.

            To get back to the topic, while Bill Gates has chosen to become an edu-paladin, doing with his billions what’s generally done with worthless edu-research, the Waltons have forged ahead with the remaking of public education by facilitating the opening of charter schools.

            While Gates is looking back on a uniform record of failure in his attempts to try to reform public education by making no substantive changes to the public education system the Waltons are materially improving the education to which the poor have access by ignoring the district-based system and treating the poor as if they’re adults and capable of making decisions on their own behalf.

            I can see a parallel between Gates and the district-based public education system on the one hand and the Waltons and public education alternatives on the other.

            Gates’ fortune is based much more on good luck and a lack of alternatives, with its de facto monopoly, then on the inherent superiority of his product whereas the Waltons simply out-competed their rivals by raising the standard of living of their customers.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            I suppose it depends on what you mean by “left-wing bias.” By the standards of American politics and culture, it is “to the left.” By the standards of European politics and culture, it is probably “centrist.” By your standards, it is probably “to the right.”

            It’s a big paper, and has done things that people on the left didn’t like. But there have been far more tings that people on the right didn’t like. And does anyone doubt that you would hurt you social standing (and career prospects) at the NYT if you announced, “I’m a conservative and proud of it” while you would do the opposite if you announced, “I’m a progressive and proud of it”?

  2. I grew up learning in school about a nation where free speech and political freedom were enshrined values. Now people lose jobs and face public vilification for not donating their money in line with liberal ideals. This is neither progress nor diversity nor equality.

    • I guess the Walton Family has become collectively the Emmanuel Goldstein of the education establishment.

  3. PhillipMarlowe says:

    I’d wager a bit that most of the commentators who now call the NYT “left wing” would not have done so before my quip.
    One usually hears that from the Birchers, Clive Bundy and the Human Events crowd.

    But really, what is Ira Stoll’s beef?
    He doesn’t correct any.
    Just adjectives.
    Pretty farcical, ridiculous, preposterous, ludicrous, absurd, laughable, risible, nonsensical; senseless, pointless, useless, silly, foolish, idiotic, stupid, harebrained, cockamamie etc, etc.

    • I accept your wager and up the ante: I wager that the person who wrote: “The left wing NYT avoided covering East Timor” thinks that an unbiased editorial board may “avoid” reporting big news–that is, stuff an important story–without compromising its integrity. That, for instance, an investigation of the assassination of an ambassador is “Fox News territory.”

      A person who denies that adjectives are a function of style used to indicate tone and mood shows himself to be naive–or disingenuous–or artless—or…

      • You lose the wager.
        Again, Stolls complaint is about the adjectives used by the NYT reporter.
        Nothing more.
        And for that , he calls them left wing.

        • Your reading of the article is misses a key phrase: The latest example. As in trend. At any rate, in our society, the use of a single adjective is enough to brand someone as racist etc. A person who denies that word choices are a function of style used to indicate tone or mood or prejudice or bias is…well, see above.

          • I just just noticed that the actual phrase “The latest example” is not in the article but implied. Figured I’d fess up before call me out. And you lost the first round of the wager, but since I upped the ante and lost (taking your word for it), I’ll buy you a beer, or in lieu of, I’ll toast a glass to you:-)

          • PhillipMarlowe says:

            That’s a gimlet for me- 1/2 Rose’s Lime juice, 1/2 gin.
            I’ll take you up on it the next time I am in Chandler, AZ.

  4. Ignoring Bill Gates and his inherent support of the current model of public education, and the New York Times and its stalwart service over the decades supporting left-wing causes, what’s missing among supporters of charters is an end game.

    What do the Waltons, and other supporters of education choice, see as a goal? Right now all they seem to have is a direction – more charters – but it would be worthwhile to define a goal so it’s certain the direction aligns with that goal.

    • gahrie says:

      The end game is to bring accountability back to the system..make the kids accountable, make the parents accountable, make the teachers accountable, make the school accountable.

      At its most basic level charter schools allow parents who give a shit to seperate their kids from the kids whose parents don’t.

      • PhillipMarlowe says:
      • “At its most basic level charter schools allow parents who give a shit to separate their kids from the kids whose parents don’t.”

        Since that would be the vast majority of parents – Darwin’s pretty much made any other view on the subject self-evident nonsense – the future’s an all-charter extravaganza. Accountability’s intrinsic to that situation because good charters will cannibalize lousy charters just as they’re currently cannibalizing lousy district schools.

        So where’s the logical end point? Do districts learn to respond to the threat posed by charters by becoming flexible, responsive, accountable, etc? Or do they march into the history books?

        Or is something in between possible?

        • gahrie says:

          In my experience you are giving far too much credit to the parents.

          There will always be a sizable portion of the population who regard schools as free babysitting and somewhere they send their kids because they have to.

          If you can’t track kids on the micro level, you will have tracked kids on the macro level.

          • Actually, you don’t have to track kids at all and we didn’t until pretty recently although impotent efforts to related student attainments to the quality of the school do reach back three or four decades. The assumption was that if the experts were given sufficient resources and authority nothing but good could result.

            Ooops! Turns out even experts have their own agenda which isn’t necessarily related to the agenda supplied by those doing the funding.

            With regard to that “sizable portion of the population”, your hypothesis omits the percentage of parents who send their kids to the typically less convenient charters to which they must also apply. If all a sizable portion of parents are interested in is warehousing their kids because the law requires it then “sizable” is a minority, and perhaps a vanishingly small minority. because charter schools typically fill quickly.

            Parental disinterest runs counter to the reflexive, and deeply-ingrained, desire of parents to protect their children so it’s the situation in which those parents find themselves that results in apathy. Apathy is one of the responses to impotence so those disinterested parents are acting as the situation directs them. Change the situation, change the response.

            Charters are the demonstration proof that parental indifference is a product of parental powerlessness.

  5. Roger Sweeny says:

    Another thing you can add to the list of “non-left-wing” things the NYT has done: employed Nicolas Wade as a science reporter. On Tuesday, his latest book “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History” will be published.

    From the publisher’s blurb: “Drawing on startling new evidence from the mapping of the genome, an explosive new account of the genetic basis of race and its role in the human story.”