Just How Deep Are Walton Pockets for K-12 Funding? Ask Teach for America

America’s richest family, the Waltons, have been pouring money into K-12 education for years. They've put over $1 billion into K-12 to date with plans to invest another $1 billion over the next five years.

We've written a lot about this rising education funding stream from the Walton Family Foundation, which topped over $200 million in 2014 for the first time—a whopping 23 percent increase over 2013.

Related: A 900-Pound Gorilla Gets Even Bigger: Walton Ramps Up Its Education Funding

Beyond the growing scale of Walton K-12 funding, one point we've stressed is how this money is reaching more kinds of groups. We all know the Waltons love charter schools, but more money is also flowing these days to policy and advocacy groups that work on education issues, as well as the infrastructure of organizations that help bolster charters. 

It should probably go without saying that the Walton Family Foundation is a huge fan of Teach for America, the national teacher corps. But even we didn't realize just how long WFF has been supporting TFA. It turns out that this relationship goes back 22 years, to TFA's earliest days. The foundation's first grant to TFA was in 1993 for the organization’s work in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta region. A veritable river of funding has followed since.

Like many of TFA's die-hard backers, which includes a who's who of ed reform funders, WFF has never been even slightly fazed by the controversy surrounding TFA, including bitter fights over the group's effectiveness in recruiting teachers that stay in the profession for the long haul. 

And now, in recognition of TFA’s 25th anniversary, Walton is seriously upping the ante with a $50 million grant to bolster teacher development in communities across the United States. 

The three-year grant will support public outreach and partnership-building efforts, as well as recruitment, training and professional development of about 4,000 teachers in many of Teach For America’s 52 regions, including Atlanta; Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta; the Bay Area; Camden, New Jersey; Colorado; Houston; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Massachusetts; Memphis; New Orleans; San Antonio; and Washington, D.C.

While Teach for America may still have a reputation in some quarters as a place where affluent do-gooders make a pit stop before attending law school, the composition of the teaching corps looks pretty different these days than it once did. According to TFA, 47 percent of its members come from low-income families, and one in three of the new teachers are the first in their families to graduate from college. Furthermore, nearly half of the teaching corps identify as people of color, compared with 20 percent of teachers nationwide.