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Opinion: Curb corporate influence on public schools

Teachers and parents met at Cadman Plaza in

Teachers and parents met at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn to hold a rally before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge and ending at City Hall. The rally is geared on supporting Charter Schools. (Oct. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: CS Muncy

The Walton family, majority owner of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., has spent more than $1 billion since 2000 to undermine public schools across the country -- pushing "reforms" that move us toward a privatized K-12 system run by entrepreneurs and investors rather than educators.

With a new school year, New Yorkers can expect to see a back-to-school profiteering effort by the Waltons and their Wall Street allies. We believe they will try to get the state to lift the cap on the number of charter schools allowed to operate across New York. In 2010, the state raised the cap on charters from 200 to 460.

We expect this effort will build on what the Waltons did just a few months ago. During state budget negotiations, the Walton Family Foundation funded ads to promote co-location of charter schools in public schools -- a practice that divides communities. Before more Walton-funded ads appear, it's crucial for New Yorkers to understand this: Just as Wal-Mart's claims about respecting workers cannot be trusted, neither can the Walton family's statements of concern for our children be taken at face value.

New Yorkers deserve to know what the Waltons mean when they talk about education "reform." They want to apply the business model of Wal-Mart to public schools: more corporate control, more profit for companies and lower-paid workers. We fear their goal is the Walmartization of public schools.

Over the last five years, the Waltons have pumped millions into expanding publicly funded, but privately operated charter schools in NYC. But they have not spent a single dollar lobbying to increase investments in resource-starved public schools in our state.

Low-income students and students of color in public schools are disproportionately affected, as their education is destabilized and treated as the least worthy of investment.

Yet, even as the state fails to fulfill its constitutional duty to adequately fund public schools, the Waltons seek to divert much-needed tax dollars to charter school operators. New Yorkers want strong public schools in all communities and access to the highest-quality education for all children.

Unfortunately, more ad campaigns and advocacy from the Waltons will only leave our students, families and communities worse off.

Zakiyah Ansari is advocacy director of the Alliance for Quality Education and Audrey Sasson is director of Walmart-Free NYC. Both are advocacy groups partly supported by labor.


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