The heirs of Walmart, the Waltons, are well known for supporting school choice; they committed in 2016 to spend $1 billion on charters over five years. The Walton Foundation website has a “public charter startup grant.”
Steuart Walton is on the national board of Leadership for Educational Equity(LEE), which is heavily entrenched with Teach for America (TFA). TFA has a Walton Family Foundation K-12 Education Program that they openly talk about on their website.
A simple search using “charter” in the search tool on LEE’s website shows that the charter movement is of interest to them and their members.
Last week the board of trustees for the Houston Independent School District (HISD) voted on a policy to clear the way for in-district charters to avoid replacement of democratically elected officials with managers and voted to renew their contract with Teach for America.
Two trustees, Anne Sung and Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, had obvious conflicts of interest when voting to renew the Teach for America contract. Sung abstained her vote, but Vilaseca voted in favor. Spoiler alert: Vilaseca worked for Teach for America.
The Walton family donated a total of $15,000 to Vilaseca. Note in the screenshot below that this is not from the foundation or any of the organizations the Waltons are part of — this is directly from the Waltons.
Vilaseca received $6,000 from LEE.
Sung received $9,500 from LEE.
Now let’s take a look at a how a local PAC has some connections to the Waltons.
The GPS Action PAC was formed in 2017 in part by Houstonians for Great Public Schools (HGPS) which has five board members.
Per a GPS Action PAC finance report from 2017, the trustees Adams, Deigaard, Vilaseca, and Sung each received $10,000.
Weekley Properties, which donated a total of $8,500 to the mayor and city council per 2016–2017 campaign finance reports, are donors for the GPS Action PAC.
David Weekley donated $10K, and Richard Weekley donated $10K to the PAC.
The Weekleys also donated $5,000 to Jones.
Now, here’s where things tie back to Wal-Mart.
Joseph G. Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer of Alta Resources, L.L.C, is on the board for HGPS. However, he is also on Houston’s Teach for America board. Weren’t we just talking about Teach for America and their ties to the Waltons? Greenberg donated $10,000 to GPS Action PAC.
Greenberg is also a board member of YES Prep Schools which recently, in March 2018, received $790,000 from the Walton Foundation.
Know who else is on the board of YES Prep Schools? Rev. Leslie Smith who is on the board of HGPS.
Douglas L. Foshee, president and chief executive officer of Sallyport Investments LLC, is also on the board for HGPS. However, he’s also on the executive board for KIPP Houston going by Doug instead of Douglas. Foshee donated $1,668 as an in-kind contribution for office space for GPS Action.
Surely we’ve all already seen KIPP’s presence in the Houston area.
Remember, HGPS has five board members. Care to count how many of them operate on boards influenced by the Waltons? Three, the answer is three. Three out of the five are on boards that have been influenced by the Waltons.
On the HISD website, their reports are listed on their profile which is where I gathered my initial info, the 2016–2018 campaign finance reports, as seen here: http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/42019
However, that’s not all. I googled “HISD election page” to pull up all of their reports from the 2017 election. Even then, this list does not have Rhonda Skillern-Jones’ reports: http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/162429
As if this blatant disregard for democracy or ethics wasn’t enough, HISD has less than two weeks to vote on which entities will privatize the ten black and brown schools that are facing pressure for partnerships. Here’s the kicker: the public doesn’t know which entities are up for the running or when the board will vote.