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Catalyst-Chicago: Wal-Mart Funds School Closing Hearings

by Sarah Karp - Catalyst Chicago   |  01/31/2013

For the Record: Walton Foundation funds community engagement

District officials have said they don’t want to link the volatile issue of school closings with the equally volatile issue of charter school openings. But a major pro-charter foundation is providing financial backing for the current crop of school closing meetings taking place around the city this month.

The district is now engaged in a community engagement process intended to provide feedback to the district as it contemplates what schools to close. That process is being underwritten by the Walton Family Foundation (a foundation run by the founders of Wal-Mart). The Walton Foundation has fueled the expansion of charter schools across the country and, in January, announced that CPS was the largest recipient of charter school grants in the country.

The Walton Foundation agreed in November to provide CPS with a grant for the community engagement process around the “utilization crisis,” according to the CPS communications office. The foundation lists a $478,000 grant to the Children First Foundation, a not-for-profit set up by CPS (Spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler confirmed the $478,000 is likely the grant for the community engagement process.)

Video from Monday's hearing at Truman College. 

The district had not budgeted for a “rigorous community engagement effort” and therefore needed to reach out for funding, notes spokeswoman Becky Carroll. CPS is using the grant to pay for the “independent facilitators” from the Loran Marketing Group, which is running the breakout sessions at the community meetings.

The content of these breakout sessions is not clear. CPS has banned the media from attending them.

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