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Walton Foundation Gives Nearly $50 Million to TFA

The Walton Family Foundation will invest $49.5 million in the national Teach For America over three years, according to a release from the Bentonville, Ark.-based nonprofit organization.

The investment, which makes the foundation the single largest private donor to TFA to date, will help to double the number of corps members placed each year, to 15,000 by 2015, the release says.

About half the investment will support the training and professional development of corps members in Denver; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; Newark, N.J.; New Orleans; the District of Columbia; and the Mississippi Delta region.

Teach For America, along with a handful of other teacher programs, recently lost an annual federal earmark, so this is no doubt welcome news to the program.

The donation also comes at a time in which the role of private foundations in public education has received intense scrutiny. Teachers' unions and other prominent figures, such as NYU professor Diane Ravitch, say that such foundations are exerting too much influence over the shape of policy.

In the release, the head of Walton's education reform team, Jim Blew, commends TFA for producing "leaders in the parental choice and education reform movement." He cites former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the two founders of the Knowledge Is Power Program charter school network as examples. Both Rhee's tenure and KIPP have generated lots of debate in the field.

Colleague Erik Robelen has written about the Walton Foundation's philanthropy, as well as about the influence of private foundations in general. Make sure to read them for more background.

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