Who Were the Big Winners of Walton's Ed Money in 2013?

The Walton Family Foundation spent more than $164 million on education projects in 2013, and as you may have guessed, showered a lot of love on charter schools, charter networks, and the organizations that advocate for them.

As we all know, Walton is one of the largest funders of charter schools and is a major proponent of other school choice activities, including vouchers (See Walton Family Foundation: Grants for Charter Schools). A look at Walton's biggest recipients make clear the funder's priorities:

  • Teach For America, $18.8 million
  • Charter Fund Inc., $14.5 million
  • KIPP Foundation, $8.8 million
  • Children's Scholarship Fund, $8.5 million
  • California Charter School Association, $5.5 million

A wide range of other organizations and networks received Walton funding in 2013, with pro-school choice groups receiving a large share of the grants. Creating new schools was the major education activity funded by Walton, accounting for $70 million, or nearly 43 percent, of the foundation's education grants. Recipients included individual charter schools, charter management organizations, and state charter school associations. In addition to KIPP, major recipients of grants for creating schools included Pacific Charter School Development Inc., which received nearly $2.1 million, and Excellent Education Development Inc., which received $3.5 million. Other grants for creating schools were smaller, with most averaging around $250,000.

But Walton isn't just interested in creating new schools. The funder also aims to shape the public policy debate over education. Grants in this area accounted for $63.4 million, or 39 percent of Walton's grant-making activities. Groups and organizations engaged in the policy debate and who favor school choice programs, such as charters and vouchers, are clear favorites. This is not the funder to approach if your policy positions advocate increased funding for public schools and higher pay for teachers. Major recipients in this area included the pro-voucher Black Alliance for Educational Options, $1.3 million; Alliance For School Choice, $3.16 million; New Teacher Project, $2.5 million, and the pro-"parent trigger" advocate Parent Revolution Inc., $1.99 million.

Walton's other grant-making activities in education included improvements to existing schools, accounting for $20.6 million in grants, and research and evaluation activities, $1.1 million. Most research and evaluation awards went to university-based projects.

Although Walton has a clear preference for school choice programs, traditional public school systems are not left out completely (See Walton Family Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education). So-called "other education grants" represented $8.9 million of the funder's 2013 giving. Recipients in this area included several public school districts. However, school districts seeking Walton funding should not expect the kind of large awards received by KIPP or Teach For America. Grants to traditional school districts mostly averaged around $10,000, with the Bentonville Public Schools, in the funder's home city, receiving over $120,000.