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Foundation Surpasses 1,500 Charter School Startup Investments

February 5, 2014
Largest private funder of charter school startups supports the opening of roughly one in four charter schools in the nation since 1997.

Today the Walton Family Foundation announced 2013 public charter school startup investments of nearly $25 million to support the opening of 112 new schools. The foundation, the largest private funder of charter school startups, has invested $335 million since 1997 to fund charter school startups. Today, approximately one out of every four charter schools in the U.S. has received startup funding from the foundation.

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“For more than 15 years, the foundation has been singularly focused on expanding access to high-quality schools, which we believe to be a fundamental right for all Americans and a quintessential lever to breaking the cycle of poverty in so many communities,” said Marc Sternberg, director of the foundation’s K-12 education reform efforts. “Our experience in making these investments across the country proves that there is tremendous demand for more high quality options. We intend to keep working with our local partners and school leaders to meet this demand.”

Until the U.S. Department of Education created the Charter Schools Program, the foundation was one of the only charter school startup supporters in the country. The foundation’s investments have supported the charter school movement as it has grown to serve more than two million students in 6,000 schools across the United States. In addition, there are nearly one million students on waiting lists to attend the charter school of their choice.

In 2013, Los Angeles received the largest amount of startup funding, with 23 new schools receiving more than $4.69 million to open in the coming years. The foundation has supported more charter school startups in Los Angeles than any other region in the country. A total of 159 schools have received over $35 million to open in the region. The foundation has also supported the creation of 125 schools in New York City.

According to a 2013 foundation analysis of student proficiency rates in the foundation’s 16 investment sites,students in foundation-funded public charter schools had higher average levels of achievement than the students in traditional public schools in 15 regions. Additionally, in 12 sites the students in foundation-funded public charter schools achieved, on average, equal to or higher than students in other public charter schools that were not funded by the foundation. The same comparison of foundation-funded charter schools to charter schools not funded by the foundation cannot be made in the Albany, N.Y., investment site, since the foundation has provided funding to every public charter school there with data available.

In addition to directly funding the startup of charter schools, the foundation invests in the Charter School Growth Fund and KIPP to help their affiliated charter management organizations replicate schools. In 2013, the foundation invested $15.5 million and $8.8 million to expand successful CSGF and KIPP schools, respectively.

In order to qualify for a startup grant, school operators must be granted permission to open their school by an approved authorizing body. They are then reviewed by local committees comprised of community members and foundation staff. Applicants that meet the foundation’s quality threshold are provided up to $250,000 in operational and planning support prior to opening and throughout their first year.

Cumulative Startup Grants (1997-2013) $335,108,104.55
By investment site:
Albany $3,018,625
Atlanta $4,263,500
Boston $3,653,413
Chicago $24,676,292
Denver $10,210,677
Detroit $6,113,199
Harlem, N.Y. $5,450,750
Indianapolis $9,436,002
Los Angeles $35,911,900
Memphis $4,877,777
Milwaukee $6,999,424
Minneapolis $9,124,347
New Orleans $12,389,350
Newark, N.J. $2,707,250
Phoenix $5,644,409
Washington, D.C. $16,335,314
2013 Startup Grants $24,940,000