Reports that Walmart heir Alice Walton recently donated $350,000 to a pro-charter school political action committee in a Northwest Side race for state representative are causing concern among many educators and working families. Walton is the daughter of Sam and Helen Walton, founders of Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation, which once claimed to have funded a quarter of all charter schools in the U.S.
The pro-charter One Chance Illinois IE PAC is supporting Eva-Dina Delgado, who faces Chicago Public Schools bilingual preschool teacher Nidia Carranza in the race for state representative in the 3rd District. The Walton Family Foundation has a track record of interfering in a community it is not a part of, using its immense wealth to push a privatization agenda on schools and working families, avoid any of the impact or risks, and escape accountability.
Between 2009 and 2014, the foundation gave nearly $7 million to charters in Chicago, including $3.8 million in 2012—more money than it spent in any other city—to open new charter schools. So it is clear that the family’s primary interest is not a better education for students, but rather undermining public schools in order to promote publicly funded, but privately run, charters.
“What Walmart and the Walton family have to offer isn’t more important than the families of the 3rd District,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Corporate reformers insist that students and teachers have to be held accountable, but apparently will give a pass to one of this country’s wealthiest families.”
“We stand with Nidia because she’s from the community, knows neighborhood schools are anchors and will serve the families in those communities just as she serves the students from those families in her classroom,” Sharkey said.
Carranza is the daughter of an immigrant family and native of the Northwest Side. Delgado, a former People’s Gas executive, is backed by disgraced former 3rd District Rep. Luis Arroyo, who is under investigation for federal bribery charges.
The Walton involvement in the CPS school closing controversy is another example of how the family’s privatization agenda has harmed schools, communities and students. In 2013, CPS used money from a Walton grant to purchase advertising space on websites and run YouTube videos discussing its plan to close more than 50 schools.
As CPS prepared its closure list, the foundation also bankrolled a “community engagement process” with meetings led by Walton-paid consultants to provide the illusion that the school closure process was open and democratic. Seven years later, the Walton family is now spending thousands to threaten the Northwest Side with a charter takeover.
“We are proud to support Nidia, a teacher from the community, who understands firsthand the needs of our teachers, students and families,” Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said. “Her experience as an educator will be invaluable as she advocates for stronger public schools, labor rights and safe neighborhoods.”
One of the things proven by research to improve academic performance is improving the economic situation for children and their families. While the Walton family likes to talk about how it values all children, Walmart, which the family controls roughly half of, continues to keep many of its employees in poverty, with low wages, poor benefits and the kinds of unpredictable schedules that make parenting even more difficult.
None of that is needed for the working families of the Northwest Side.
Our sister Nidia has support from the AFL-CIO, Illinois Federation of Teachers, SEIU State Council, United Working Families, National Association of Social Workers and a number of progressive leaders and elected officials. March 17 is Illinois primary day, but she needs your help before then. Sign up to volunteer and help Nidia bring equity and real change to the 3rd District!