Posts Tagged ‘Walton family’

PSAT for 8-20-13: Don’t buy school supplies at WalMart

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

psat_logoPublic Schools Action Tuesday is usually about something you can/should do to support public education. Today it’s about something you shouldn’t do.


It’s that time of year when everyone is stocking up on new notebooks, shiny folders, colorful pencils.

It’s also a time when parents, teachers and students in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington DC are feeling more dread and despair than the excitement that usually accompanies the first day of school, because we can see so how the privatization and austerity moves in these cities are threatening every fundamental of our children’s education.

It’s a time when many are planning strong push-back activities against Rahm Emanuel and other autocrats who are listening only to their rich friends while thumbing their noses at the people who actually use the public schools, at solid education research, and ultimately at the mostly poor, mostly black and brown children whom they claim to love so much.

It’s a terrible time. It’s a time to act locally, but also to think and act globally. We have to do both – these guys have way too much money to spend on their pet strategies, and that money is coming from us.

Much of the blame for the disaster in our nation’s public schools today can be traced to the Walton family’s wealth, which in turn comes from the money people spend in their stores on school supplies and other items. Here’s what some $700 million of the money we spent at WalMart between 2005 and 2010 went to support and promote:


  • more charter schools: $3.8 million in Chicago alone  including $230,000 for UNO charter schools.
  • more school closings: $500,000 to pay for Chicago’s sham “public engagement” school closing hearings.
  • more astroturf “parent” groups like Stand for Children (millions) and Parent Revolution ($6.3 million) to push the parent trigger and other corporate reforms.
  • more high-stakes standardized testing: Walton supports teacher bonuses linked to raising test scores.
  • more vouchers for private and religious schools.
  • more Michelle Rhee: despite the recent scandals involving Rhee, WalMart recently raised her allowance to the tune of $8 million.

Doesn’t this year’s WalMart’s Back-to-school campaign slogan, “More School for your money,” just expose the greed behind their schemes? WalMart

As I’ve said before, it’s not that I think we can bring WalMart to its fiscal knees with a boycott. But companies like WalMart have what one marketing blogger calls a “fragile corporate image.” They want consumers to think of them as benevolent, loving rich folks who desire nothing more than to take care of the rest of us through their generosity. They want us to have a warm fuzzy feeling when we think about them, which will lead us to ignore their growing reputation as horrible bosses, and go buy some more stuff at their stores.

In fact, WalMart’s public image is getting more fragile all the time – read “The Real WalMart: Six Big Fibs in WalMart’s New Ad Campaign” by Calvin F. Exoo in yesterday’s Daily Kos, which suggests that WalMart is feeling the heat.

In all likelihood, the Waltons actually want our children to get a poorer, narrower education (or drop out early) so that the best they will be able to aspire to is working for low wages and few if any benefits at WalMart, leaving them little choice but to shop at WalMart in order to stretch their pennies.

So, where should you shop?

I’m not in the business of promoting one business over another, but I did do some research into Office Depot’s corporate giving and I can’t find anything like the rap sheet on the Waltons. In fact, Office Depot offers special rebates to teachers, provides grants for teacher-determined projects on the order of the Donors Choose program, gives away thousands of backpacks every year to low-income children including students in Navajo Nation schools, and even supports Lady Gaga’s anti-bullying efforts.

Just saying.

PSAT for 10-30-12: Boycott Amazon?

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

I try to use the first PSAT of the month (when I remember) to identify some of the worst enemies of public education for us to boycott. So far, I’ve gleefully picked on Bill Gates, Penny Pritzker, Bruce Rauner and Walmart, and generally followed my own advice. I’m doing November’s entry a week early to highlight a ballot proposition in Washington state that will be decided next Tuesday.

And this time I have to pick on Amazon, a tough one for me since I am a persistent Amazon shopper (like, yesterday, for example). They just make it it so darn easy…

But pick on Amazon I must, in special solidarity with the citizens of Washington State and especially my great Parents Across America friend Dora Taylor who writes the wonderful blog

Why? Well, despite the fact that the folks out there in Washington, Bill Gates’ own neighbors, have repeatedly rejected the establishment of charter schools in their state, Bill and his know-nothing-about-education pals keep trying, and this year they have ponied up nearly $10 million to push ballot initiative 1240, allowing up to 40 charter schools in Washington

Dora posted an analysis of the initiative by local education expert Dr. Wayne Au, who points out that charter schools are undemocratic, take funds away from struggling public school districts, and – contrary to assertions in the initiative’s language  – are not better than traditional schools.

Dr. Au lays out the numbers:

The Yes On 1240 Washington Coalition for Public Charter Schools has received $9,132,994.26 in donations. $6.7 million, or roughly 73% of that comes from 5 donors:

  1. Bill Gates – $3,000,000;
  2. Alice Walton (heiress daughter of Walmart founder, Sam Walton) – $1,700,000;
  3. Nicolas Hanauer  (venture capitalist, early investor in – $1,000,000;
  4. Mike Bezos (father of founder Jeff Bezos) – $500,000;
  5. Jackie Bezos (mother of founder Jeff Bezos) – $500,000;

A total of $8.85 million, or just under 97% of the campaign is being funded by 19 donors, most of them being millionaires or billionaires, and some of them out-of-state.

So, I suppose that since Amazon’s Jeff Bezos himself is not a donor – just his parents, and maybe they don’t get along, right? – I could give Amazon a pass. And Christmas is coming – that next-day delivery is pretty sweet…Still, I will thing twice and I think you should too.

Meanwhile, check out some of these other donors to the Washington state charter push:

  1. Connie Ballmer (wife of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer) – $500,000;
  2. Anne Dinning (managing director of hedge fund giant, D.E. Shaw Investments) – $250,000;
  3. Michael Wolf (Yahoo! Inc. board of directors) – $250,000;
  4. Katherine Binder (EMFCO Holdings Chairwoman) – $200,000;
  5. Eli Broad (real estate mogul, Broad Foundation) – $200,000;
  6. Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founder) – $100,000;
  7. Doris Fisher (Gap co-founder) – $100,000;
  8. Reed Hastings (CEO of Netflix) – $100,000;
  9. Gabe Newell (formerly of Microsoft, co-founder of video game developer Valve Corporation) – $100,000;
  10. Benjamin Slivka (former Microsoft, co-founder DreamBox Learning) – $100,000;
  11. Microsoft – $100,000;
  12. Bruce McCaw (co-founder of McCaw Cellular, now known as Cingular Wireless) – $50,000;
  13. Jolene McCaw (wife of Bruce McCaw, both of the Apex Foundation) – $50,000;
  14. Education Reform Now Advocacy (a wing of the Democrats for Education Reform) – $50,000;

Well, I’m already good on Yahoo, the Gap, and Valve video games….

And you can join forces against Bill and the Waltons by donating to the anti-1240 campaign here. I just did.


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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.