At first glance, it is one of the nation’s hottest new education-reform movements, a seemingly populist crusade to empower poor parents and fix failing public schools. But a closer examination reveals that the “parent-trigger” movement is being heavily financed by the conservative Walton Family Foundation, one of the nation’s largest and most strident anti-union organizations, a Frying Pan News investigation has shown.
Since 2009, the foundation has poured more than $6.3 million into Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles advocacy group that is in the forefront of the parent-trigger campaign in California and the nation. Its heavy reliance on Walton money, critics say, raises questions about the independence of Parent Revolution and the intentions of the Walton Family Foundation.
While Parent Revolution identifies the Walton Family Foundation as one of several donors on its Web site, the full extent of contributions from the Walton foundation and other donors hasn’t been publicly known until now. Information supplied to Frying Pan News by Parent Revolution and publicly available tax records show that a total of 18 separate foundations have given more than $14.8 million to the group since its founding in 2009.
Other multimillion dollar contributors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($1.6 million); the Laura and John Arnold Foundation ($1.5 million); the Wasserman Foundation($1.5 million); the Broad Foundation($1.45 million) and the Emerson Collective Education Fund ($1.2 million), founded by Laurence Powell Jobs, the widow of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
But the Walton Family Foundation is by far Parent Revolution’s largest benefactor, contributing 43 percent of the $14.9 million total.
“Why is all this money coming in?” asks John Rogers, director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, who has studied the parent-trigger movement. “Itdoesn’t seem to be about educational improvements . . . It seems to be about creating greater pressure to challenge teachers’ unions rather than an authentic way to improve education opportunities.” The parent-trigger law diminishes the influence of teachers’ unions and it allows public schools to be turned into nonunion charters.
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