Magazine article Church & State

Walton Foundation Pours Millions into School Voucher Crusade

Magazine article Church & State

Walton Foundation Pours Millions into School Voucher Crusade

Article excerpt

An Arkansas foundation formed by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton continues to pour millions of dollars into the private school voucher movement.

According to the Arkansas Democrat, the Walton Family Foundation is now worth

nearly $1 billion and continues to grow. Established in 1987, it has enjoyed explosive growth. Walton, who died in 1992, left the foundation a trust worth $172 million that became its basis for operations.

While the foundation funds some museums, symphonies and community projects in Arkansas, the lion's share of its money goes to "school choice" initiatives. Recipients of Walton's largess include voucher front groups such as the American Education Reform Council, Floridians for School Choice, the Mackinac Center and the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation.

Of the $66.5 million in grants the Walton Family Foundation distributed in 2000, $33.4 million went to fund the voucher movement, and $14.2 million went to charter schools or organizations supporting them. The foundation's largest single grant, $24.8 million, went to the Children's Scholarship Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based group that pays for tuition at religious and other private schools. (Fund backers hope the effort will convince politicians to support tax-subsidized voucher plans.)

In other news about parochial school aid:

* Voucher strategists are looking for new approaches after the crushing defeat of two voucher referenda last November. According to the Family Research Council's Ed Facts bulletin, some voucher groups plan to push a "universal tax credit" instead. Under the proposal, parents, individual taxpayers and businesses would receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for money spent to pay for any student's private school tuition. Backers believe this proposal would skirt the church-state problems that have sunk some voucher plans in the courts. …

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