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Foundation Invests $432 Million in 2012; Creates Opportunity to Help Individuals Live Better

January 29, 2013
Majority of investments supported K-12 Education Reform, Freshwater and Marine Conservation, and Quality of Life Initiatives in Arkansas and Mississippi

BENTONVILLE, ARK., Jan. 29, 2013 – Today the Walton Family Foundation announced more than $432 million in 2012 investments in initiatives to expand opportunity for individuals and communities in the United States and internationally. The majority of investments were made in three key areas of focus – K-12 education reform, freshwater and marine conservation and quality of life initiatives in Arkansas and Mississippi.

“We work to continue the philanthropic vision set by Sam and Helen Walton,” said Buddy D. Philpot, the foundation’s executive director. “Our investments are made across diverse areas of focus, but with a singular mission – to expand opportunity for individuals and communities so that they can live better in today’s world.” The foundation, established by Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton, is governed by their descendants and operates with the belief that a private family foundation can uniquely spark innovation and creativity in addressing social needs by investing to make a lasting difference. In 2012 the foundation invested in these areas:

Systemic K-12 Education Reform

The foundation invested more than $158 million in 2012 to further its goal of expanding education options for families and improving K-12 student achievement in the United States at every level – in traditional public schools, public charter schools and private schools. The foundation invests to infuse competition into the nation’s K-12 education system by increasing the quantity and quality of school choices available to parents, especially in low-income communities, in order to inspire all schools to improve. Grants were made in three initiatives, as well as to support research and evaluation.

Shape Public Policy – Investments of more than $60 million were made to build the capacity of organizations to help enact, strengthen and protect programs that empower parents to choose among the highest-performing schools. These investments lead to stronger public charter schools and K-12 scholarship programs, as well as greater public access to better information about school and teacher performance. The year marked unprecedented improvements in state policies empowering low-income parents to choose among quality schools. Charter school laws were enacted or improved in 16 states, and private school scholarship programs were created or expanded in seven states.

Create Quality Schools – Investments of more than $72 million were made to establish new, high-quality schools of choice. Through these investments, the foundation supports both proven and promising groups seeking to start or expand schools of choice. In 2012, the foundation supported continued and substantial growth in the charter school movement, which now serves more than two million students in the United States. Investments supported the launch of more than 100 public charter schools in 2012.

Improve Existing Schools - Investments of more than $23 million were made to help reformers respond constructively to increased competition. The foundation focuses on improving teacher effectiveness and addressing weaknesses in the governance, management and instructional performance of traditional, public charter and private schools. Longstanding foundation support for Teach For America continued in 2012 as part of a five-year $49.5 million commitment. There are now 28,000 TFA alumni who are a growing force of transformational leaders including 7,800 teachers, 550 principals, 100 school system leaders and 200 alumni, including elected officials, working to shape public policy.


The foundation awarded grants of more than $91 million in 2012 to groups and programs that create benefits for local economies and communities through lasting conservation solutions for oceans and rivers. Grants were made primarily in two initiatives.

Freshwater Conservation – Grants totaling more than $29 million were made to help sustain healthy and resilient communities of both wildlife and people in the Colorado and Mississippi River Basins. In November, the U.S. and Mexico signed an agreement regarding water management in the Delta region of the Colorado River. Foundation grantees in the U.S. and Mexico, including ProNatura Noroeste and Environmental Defense Fund, were instrumental in ensuring that this bi-national agreement included provisions for environmental restoration and a commitment to keep water in the river to protect wildlife and the environment – and to sustain the businesses and communities that depend on a healthyriver.

Marine Conservation – Nearly $39 million was invested to create economic incentives for sustainable resource management in some of the world’s most ecologically rich ocean areas, from Indonesia to Ecuador to the Gulf of Mexico. Foundation grantees, including Conservation International, are pioneering the use of TURFs (Territorial Use Rights in Fisheries), which give local fishermen or communities exclusive rights to fish in designated areas, in combination with marine reserves, which serve as places where fish populations can grow and reproduce. In Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape, this combination is already helping fishermen and their communities thrive even as fish populations rebound, and foundation grantees are beginning to apply a similar approach in other places.

Additionally, the foundation has made a long-term commitment to the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico region following devastating events, including Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 oil spill. In 2012, a broad foundation-convened coalition of economic and environmental interests continued to support restoration in the region as a national economic imperative. A healthy Gulf means a healthy economy, both regionally and nationally. Many of the nation’s industries depend upon the Gulf’s fragile and threatened ecosystem. Restoring the Gulf and its wetlands, coasts and estuaries will make the region and its communities more resilient, lessen the potential damage from future hurricanes and flooding and create tens of thousands of jobs. The passage of the RESTORE Act by the 2012 Congress will provide significant funding for restoration priorities across the Gulf region and restoration efforts are expected to create as many as 57,697 new jobs in the next 10 years, according to a 2012 study.

Home Region

The Walton family has a special and ongoing commitment to the communities and timeless values that helped launch one of America’s best known entrepreneurs. Because of the generation-spanning commitment, the foundation invested more than $30 million in 2012 in programs in its home region. These programs measurably improve the quality of life by creating cultural, education and economic opportunities in northwest Arkansas, throughout the state of Arkansas and in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta region. Grants were made in three initiatives.

Arkansas Education Reform - The economic well-being of the state depends upon the ability to create an environment where every child in Arkansas has access to a high-quality, publicly funded education. The foundation is engaged in and gave more than $9 million to efforts in Arkansas to increase academic performance of the state’s students by investing in programs that improve accountability, transparency, choice and incentives in our public schools. In 2012, the foundation supported the introduction of the highly successful charter management organization Responsive Education Solutions to Arkansas which led to the approval of three new public charter schools that will open in the 2013-14 school year.

Northwest Arkansas - Among the many things that make northwest Arkansas a dynamic and thriving region are the FORTUNE 500 companies that call the area home, a world-class art museum and the natural beauty of our surroundings. In 2012, investments of more than $15 million supported infrastructure, transportation and downtown revitalization projects in key communities furthering the region’s appeal and ability to welcome visitors and new residents alike. The foundation provided new funding to support the work of the Jones Trust and the Jones Center for Families in both Benton and Washington counties. Funding supported both capital improvements and the creation of an endowment to ensure the longevity of the largest single diverse, social impact resource in northwest Arkansas.

Delta Region of Arkansas and Mississippi – The foundation and its grantee partners work to improve the quality of life in the impoverished Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi. In 2012, this effort continued by investing more than $5 million in economic development and community-based strategies that lead to sustainable progress, and by enhancing educational opportunities for children and adults. The foundation continued to support Teach For America’s corps member placement in the Delta Region – an area that is now the second largest geographic concentration of TFA’s national work.