The Walton Family Foundation this week put $5 million into the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP)'s Great Schools fund. If you support charter schools and are against teachers’ unions, this is great news. This is terrible news if you're skeptical of charters and like teachers' unions.
If you keep up with the foundation's reform campaign, this would barely come as news at all. Walton recently named PSP executive director Mark Gleason a "reformer to watch." It makes sense. In terms of agendas, PSP and Walton may as well be the same organization.
Speaking with the Inquirer, Gleason noted that this latest grant drives the total to "more than $10 million we've attracted from national foundations to Philadelphia." Nationally active education funders have traditionally overlooked the city despite its chronically and severely struggling public school district.
The oft-repeated figure on Walton's education campaign is that they've invested a total of over a billion dollars in schools. (See Walton Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education). According to a Keystone State Higher Education Coalition blog post, about half of that has gone toward school privatization. The post catalogues the foundation's grant making to primary and secondary schools in total between 2009 and 2012.
When Gleason calls Walton's $5 million a "sign there's a real opportunity in this city," he means more nationally focused education funders like Gates, Lumina, Kresge and others may follow Walton’s suit. Since these foundations tend to demonstrate a pack mentality, they may, like Walton, also begin giving money to Philly schools. Or they will set up shop in the city's education system depending on how you choose to see what it is exactly that they do.
Want support from Walton or any of these other foundations at the secondary level? The formula's no secret: Support parents' power to enroll students in schools of their choosing, intra-school competition and charters. Condemn the teachers' unions and adhere to the rest of the neoliberal doctrine on how to rescue American education from the gutter.
The curious part is this: Out of all the nationally based big shot foundations, are there any putting significant financial weight into district schools? If not, why not?