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Walton Foundation Withdraws Support of Charter Schools in Seven Cities

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The Walton Family Foundation has decided to pull its funding in support of charter schools in seven cities as it shifts to a new focus and investments in other communities.

The foundation, which has invested in K-12 initiatives for two decades, has given widespread support to charter schools, boasting that it has granted start-up funds to one in every four charter schools nationwide.

Now, the foundation is leaving seven cities: Albany, N.Y., Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Newark, N.J., and Phoenix. The decision was made last year, according to the foundation.

"Our work, and that of our partners, will succeed and sustain when it is in concert with supportive local leadership and in a policy environment that we know is critical to improving education outcomes for the most vulnerable communities," said Marc Sternberg, the foundation's director of K-12 education programs, in a statement.

Catalyst Chicago reported April 22 that the foundation's decision comes as Chicago's charter schools face a public backlash and some critics have called the withdrawal a victory. Walton has spent more money in Chicago than any other city: $7 million in direct grants between 2009 and 2014, according to Catalyst.

"We take no pleasure in this," Sternberg told Catalyst. "It is unfortunate that there aren't opportunities to help [organizations] like them grow their impact, especially when the need in Chicago is so acute."

In January, the foundation announced a $1 billion investment to include the expansion of school choice in low-income communities, training of teachers and school leaders, and assistance to parents in navigating school choice. The efforts will focus on 13 cities: Atlanta, Boston, Camden, N.J., Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, Tenn., New Orleans, New York, Oakland, Calif., San Antonio, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

(The Walton Foundation provides financial support for Education Week's coverage of school choice and parent empowerment. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.)

Recent stories about Chicago:

Contact Sarah Tully at [email protected].

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