The Walmartization of Education

The Waltons, heirs to the Walmart fortune and majority owners of the company, are the richest family in America. With more wealth than 42% of Americans combined, the Waltons are most notorious for their low-pay, low-road business model at Walmart. Now the Waltons are using their billions to export the Walmart business model to our classrooms.

The Walton Family Foundation, run by the Walmart heirs, has given more than $1 Billion to corporate-style education reform initiatives, including millions to the pro-voucher, pro-privatization Alliance for School Choice.[i]

  • The Foundation supports the legal assault on tenure in California. [ii] In fact, the Foundation called the judge’s decision in Vergara vs. California a “historic victory,” and claims that California’s tenure system keeps “grossly ineffective teachers in front of students year after year.” [iii]
  • In December 2013, the Foundation announced that it would contribute $6 million to the Alliance for School Choice, with the aim of doubling the number of students attending private schools with publicly-funded vouchers.[iv]
  • Last year, the Foundation contributed almost $500,000 to fund the “community engagement” process that led to the closure of more than 50 Chicago public schools.[v]

The Waltons:

  • Alice Walton: Even though she lives in Texas, Walmart heiress Alice Walton personally spent $2.25 Million in 2012 to promote the Waltons’ vision of education reform in Georgia, Indiana and Washington. Her contributions included: $1.7 million to help pass a charter school initiative (I-1240) in Washington;[vi] $350 thousand to help pass a ballot measure amending state constitution in order to promote charter schools in Georgia;[vii] and $200,000 for the failed re-election bid of Indiana Superintendent of Public Inspection Tony Bennett.[viii]
  • Jim Walton: Walmart heir and board member Jim Walton personally contributed more than $600,000 to political campaigns in 2011 and 2012 alone.[ix] His political contributions are focused on Arkansas, where he is a leading advocate for charter schools and school voucher programs.[x]
  • Greg Penner: Penner married into the Walton family and is vice chair of Walmart. In 2006, Penner contributed $250,000 to a campaign to defeat universal pre-K in California.[xi] He’s also on the board of Teach for America[xii] and Co-Chair of the Charter School Growth Fund.[xiii]


[i] Motoko Rich, “A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools,” The New York Times (April 25, 2014).

[ii] Peter Schrag, “Kill Tenure, Kill Schools,” The Los Angeles Times (April 3, 2014).; Heather Somerville, “Dave Welch, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, leads court fight against teacher tenure laws,” San Jose Mercury News (June 11, 2014).

[iii] Walton Family Foundation, “Historic Victory for Students in Vergara v. California,” (June 10, 2014).

[iv] Lindsey Layton, “Walton foundation pumps cash into vouchers,” The Washington Post (December 17, 2013).

[v] Sarah Karp, “For the Record: Walton Foundation funds community engagement,” Chicago Catalyst (January 30, 2013).; “Walton family school ‘reform’ initiatives in Chicago reveals true education agenda,” Chicago Teachers Union Blog (April 17, 2013).

[vi]Wayne Au and Joseph J. Ferrare, “Sponsors of Policy: A Network Analysis of Wealthy Elites, their Affiliated Philanthropies, and Charter School Reform in Washington State,” Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 11 (2014)

[vii] National Institute on Money in State Politics, online database (Retrieved March 3, 2014)[{1|gro=f-eid

[viii] State Impact, “Tony Bennett: Indiana Native, Ex-Schools Chief, National Education Figure” (Retrieved March 27, 2014) Shortly after losing re-election, Bennett was embroiled in scandal when the AP revealed emails showing that he had ordered the falsification of state ratings for 13 schools, including a charter school founded by a major Bennett donor.

[ix] National Institute on Money in State Politics, online database (Retrieved March 3, 2014)[{1|gro=y;[{1|gro=y

[x] Max Brantley, “Waltons UPDATE: The charter school bandwagon arrives,” Arkansas Blog (Jan. 29, 2013)

[xi] National Institute on Money in State Politics (database), Top Donors to No on 82 (Retrieved July 7, 2014).

[xii] Teach for America – Boards (Retrieved July 7, 2014).

[xiii] Charter School Growth Fund – Board (Retrieved July 7, 2014).

[xiv] The Kipp Foundation Board of Directors (Retrieved July 7, 2014).

[xv] California Charter Schools Association Board – Carrie Penner (Retrieved July 7, 2014).