Walton Family Foundation Announces $3 Million Investment in Indianapolis Education Reform Causes
BENTONVILLE, ARK. – August 29, 2012 – With the goal of increasing high-quality public school options for all families, the Walton Family Foundation announced today that it is investing $3 million in Indianapolis education reform causes this year. This is the foundation’s largest single-year investment in the city and is more than six times the overall education reform investments made by the foundation in Indianapolis five years ago. The Walton Family Foundation invests in organizations and programs that empower parents, particularly in low-income communities, to choose among quality educational options for their children.
The Walton Family Foundation selected Indianapolis as one of its 16 national Investment Sites in 2011 due to the expansion of publicly funded school options for parents and a vastly-improved education reform policy environment. The Walton Family Foundation began investing in Indianapolis in 2001, the same year the state’s charter school law was passed. In 2011, Indiana created its first voucher program and the state’s public charter school movement expanded to serve more than 22,500 additional students.
“Indianapolis families now have more access to strong publicly funded school choices thanks to a vibrant policy environment that has fueled the creation and expansion of high-quality school options,” said Ed Kirby, senior program officer at the Walton Family Foundation. “In just a few short years, Indiana lawmakers have expanded the rights of parents to have access to quality schools, including traditional public, public charter, and private schools. With this year’s investments, we are indicating our intent to be a long-term partner with Indianapolis. We hope to further support advocates, policy makers, and school operators create an environment where more parents have strong school options.
These investments are being directed toward the creation and expansion of individual schools as well as the following organizations that are working to create high-quality educational options for Indianapolis families: Indiana Public Charter Schools Association, Indiana Department of Education, School Choice Indiana, and the Mind Trust.
“This investment by the Walton Family Foundation acknowledges the great work already accomplished to improve the education of our children and strengthens the city’s position as a national leader in education reform,” said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. “Indianapolis must continue to provide parents with a wide variety of choices for their children and raise the level of educational attainment in our city if we are to succeed as a community in the future.”
Indianapolis parents now have access to more high-quality publicly funded school options than in years prior due to recent legislative advances. In July, 2011, for example, Indiana created a statewide voucher program that allowed nearly 4,000 public school students to attend the private school of their choice with public scholarships. The number of students allowed to participate in the program will expand to 15,000 students in 2012, and then the cap will be lifted altogether in 2013. In the program’s first year, voucher students enrolled in private schools had proficiency rates above the state average on both English/language arts and math state assessments.
Public charter school enrollment has also grown by 80 percent in the last four years. By 2012, 28,279 students were enrolling in one of 65 charter schools across the state, 22 of which were located in Indianapolis. In 2012, there were roughly an additional 3,500 students on waiting lists for charter schools.
Non-profit partners have also expanded access to information on school quality for Indianapolis families. National organizations like GreatSchools are making complex information about school quality accessible, enabling parents to compare local school options when deciding which school is best for their child. More than 15,000 Indianapolis families received a comprehensive SchoolChooser guide this spring, which included information about local public school options, including traditional public, public charter and private schools, and was distributed at community centers across the City.