Dear Commons Community,
Public school teachers are pushing back against Wal-Mart and the Walton family. Randi Weingarten and Joe Hansen in a Huffington Post blog comment:
“As part of Wal-Mart’s back-to-school marketing efforts, the company recently launched a series of teacher appreciation videos, ads, hashtags and discounts. Teachers–who routinely dig deep into their own pockets to pay for supplies and materials for their students–are grateful for appreciation in all its forms. They are understandably less pleased when half-hearted discounts come from a company with a terrible track record for respecting its own employees and are accompanied by a large-scale effort to dismantle our nation’s public education system and silence their voice. In fact, teachers are so offended by the so-called education reform agenda promoted by Wal-Mart’s owners, the Waltons, that one teacher recently launched a petition calling on his peers not to shop at Wal-Mart this back-to-school season. More than 5,000 teachers have already added their names to his pledge.
A closer look at the Walton family’s massive investment in “education” paints a clear picture of why teachers are so upset. Since 2000, the Walton Family Foundation has given more than $1 billion to destabilize public education–draining funds from students and closing neighborhood schools, and instead supporting corporate-style education policies in an attempt to bring Wal-Mart’s business model to classrooms across the country. With a collective $148 billion fortune, the Walton family is using their unfathomable wealth to exert outsized influence on school systems in cities across the country, often in communities where they neither reside nor do business. In Chicago, the Waltons gave $500,000 to support the process that resulted in the closure of nearly 50 public schools in underserved communities. Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton spent $2.25 million in 2012 alone to promote the charter and private school sectors in Georgia, Indiana and Washington–hundreds of miles from her current home state of Texas…
If the Walton family is truly interested in helping every child achieve a high-quality education, they could begin by committing to pay their own workers a decent wage. Instead of spending their billions to wipe out our nation’s public school system, the Waltons could join the effort to reclaim the promise of public education in America–and ensure that we fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed by allowing their parents to succeed.
That’s the kind of appreciation teachers want. As Amber Rain Chandler, a teacher in New York, said to Wal-Mart: “Don’t discount the power of teachers.”
The Waltons, along with Bill Gates and Eli Broad, are the financial catalysts for much of the teacher-bashing movements that have plagued public education for the past decade.