Wal-Mart is no enemy of schools - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Wal-Mart is no enemy of schools

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Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2005 6:34 am | Updated: 8:23 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

In the Aug. 9 edition of the Tribune, Jim McLaughlin, president of Local 99 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, wrote a column that suggested Wal-Mart spends all its time thinking up ways to rip off taxpayers and oppress its workers.

This is misleading.

In fact, we learn from John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association, that when Wal-Mart isn’t dragging people out of their homes and making them work for $8 per hour, they are busy plotting to destroy public education.

"They have some fairly overt and direct campaigns to undermine the effectiveness of public schools and to take money out of the system a majority of Americans rely on for education," Wright said.

AEA, the state’s largest teachers union, joined forces with McLaughlin’s group to call for parents to boycott Wal-Mart during their backto-school shopping.

"You should spend your money, if you have a choice to do so, at a place that’s going to be more responsible with their profits," Wright said in support of the boycott.

If you have a choice? Apparently, Wright is a big believer in choice. Except when it comes to public education.

Unfortunately for Wright, more and more families are finding that they do have a choice when it comes to school. More than 80,000 students are enrolled in Arizona charter schools this year. Funds are tied to enrollment, which means that every student who chooses to enroll in a charter school takes that money with him or her.

Wal-Mart, through its Walton Family Foundation, has made sizable contributions to the charter school movement, so Wright considers Wal-Mart an enemy of public education.

Dr. Daniel Scoggin doesn’t see it that way, though. Scoggin is the CEO of Great Hearts Preparatory Schools, which operates Tempe Prep, Veritas Prep in Phoenix and Chandler Prep.

Through its Sam Walton Foundation, Wal-Mart has provided not only $230,000 to help with start-up costs for each school, but has helped assist the organization in building a business plan it can use to raise funds for expansion. Scoggin said Great Hearts hopes to have 10 charter schools operating in the Valley in the next five to six years.

"They have made a profound investment in the charter school movement," Scoggin said. "And it’s not just the high-end academic charter schools like ours, but lots of schools in underserved or disadvantaged communities."

Apparently Wal-Mart’s philosophy of school funding differs from what you often find in traditional district schools — you know, the ones with all those great AIMS scores.

"They don’t believe in just throwing money at a problem," Scoggin said. "They invest in schools that show results."

Can you imagine anything more evil than that?

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