$1.25 Billion to Expand Charter Schools

  • Education
  • 2016

The Walton Family Foundation spent more than a billion dollars to help create, test out, and improve charter schools during their first 20 years. In 2016 the foundation announced it would spend another billion and a quarter over its next five years to expand charters of all sorts—now that they have proven to be among the most effective schools in operation, with particular success at getting good outcomes from disadvantaged children who were languishing in conventional schools.

Walton has long followed a strategy of concentrating its support in states with fair and open charter laws, and backing institutions and social entrepreneurs it has worked with in the past and found to be effective. Its future investments will focus on creating new schools, strengthening the programs that train teachers and principals for charters, helping families get accurate information on the performance of local schools, improving enrollment platforms, and making sure that funding and transportation access for charters are fair.

Fully $250 million of the Walton donations will be focused on one of the biggest problems holding back charter expansion: the difficulty of acquiring and expanding buildings (which many states will not pay for, even though charters are public schools). Walton will support low-interest loans that will help charter operators build enough new space to seat an extra 250,000 children. The nonprofit Civic Builders will manage this building-acquisition effort, and the money will be steered particularly to charters that have strong demonstrated academic results or promise.