Walton Family Pledges $49.5 Million To Teach For America

July 27, 2011       Samuel Fanburg      

Even though school is still out this summer, the process for funding education organizations has not ceased, thanks to a $49.5 million investment by the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) in Teach for America (TfA).

WFF is the largest private donor to TfA. The organization seeks to double the number of corps members placed annually, to 15,000 by 2015 in 60 regions across the United States.

WFF will distribute the funds of over a three-year period. Approximately half of WFF’s investment will support TfA’s goal to double the size of its teaching corps in addition to assisting their network of alumni leaders in education. The other half will support ongoing training and professional development for more than 5,00 first- and second- teachers in “priority investment regions.”

In a prepared statement, CEO and Founder Wendy Kopp of the New York City-based TfA, said she believes much could be accomplished through this “critical investment.”

“…Teach for America will be able to develop more of our talented college graduates and professionals to become long-term champions of educational equity and excellence,” she said. “This support and partnership is a vital part of Teach for America’s effort to expand our national network of corps members and alumni, who are dedicated to improving outcomes for children in our urban and rural communities.”

Spearheaded by the three children of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Ark.-based WFF already has a past with TfA. Since 1993 and prior to their donation to TfA, they had given $22 million dollars to the organization.

The grant specifically targets the Delta Region of Arkansas and Mississippi that has been of great significance to the WFF and has just recently been explored by TfA.

Based on a 2011 study by Harvard education professor Monica Higgins and American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess, TfA is producing is the most educators of organizations and according to Jim Blew, leader of the foundation’s K-12 Education Reform efforts, is why the WFF decided to invest so heavily in the organization.

“The Walton family’s support for Teach for America is driven not only by their ability to place the best and brightest college graduates into classrooms that need them most, but also by their proven track record of producing leaders for the parental choice and education reform movement,” said Blew in a statement. “…Because Teach for America alumni and corps members are involved in efforts to empower all parents to choose quality schools for their children, they are inspiring all schools to improve, helping transform public education in our nation.”

Some have suggested that WFF’s decision to target high-impact areas in the Delta conforms with Wal-Mart’s store expansion into these areas. “That’s nonsense,” Blew said during a telephone interview. “We’ve been actively involved in these communities for several years now and we are interested in getting more teachers and looking for the leaders of tomorrow.”

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