Jeffco school board to look at Walton Foundation-backed charter
The Jefferson County Board of Education Thursday will take a first look at an application for a new charter school backed by the family foundation of Walmart founder, Sam Walton.
The Walton Family Foundation, a major supporter of charter schools, is putting up $250,000 to help bankroll Great Work Montessori School, which its leadership hopes to open in 2017. The school would serve students from pre-Kindergarten through eighth grades in “one of the most resource-restricted and highest need areas of Eastern Jefferson County,” according to the application. Likely locations are Wheat Ridge or Edgewater, where there is already a Great Work preschool. The charter could enroll up to 350 students and is based on the Montessori teaching method, a “whole-child” philosophy where students learn in multi-age classrooms and generally move at their own academic pace.
Great Work Montessori is the third such effort in Jeffco launched by Chicago-based attorney, Paul Svoboda, with support from the Walton Foundation. The other two: Great Work Learning Community, a private preschool that charges between $50 and $200 per month in tuition; and AMI Montessori, a teacher-training academy.
The Arkansas-based Walton Family Foundation gives to a variety of causes, but its greatest interest is in K-12 education. Toward that aim, the Foundation has helped fund one-quarter of the charter schools established in the United States.
The Foundation also kicked in $300,000 to the Douglas County School District to help cover legal costs tied to the district’s voucher program, which was declared unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court last year. The voucher program, constructed by the conservative board majority, would have provided taxpayer-funded vouchers to students who could then attend private or religious schools, even those not in the Douglas County School District.
The district appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015; the court has not yet taken up the matter.
The Walton Family Foundation has been active in Colorado for several years, providing big dollars to help charter schools start up in Jefferson and Denver counties. The foundation invested just under $8 million in 2011 in Colorado-based charter schools and related initiatives, such as charter school teacher training.
Great Work Montessori not the only proposed charter school using Walton money to help launch in the next year: the K-5 Downtown Denver Expeditionary School recently received a $325,000 grant from the Foundation to start up a middle school, also slated for fall 2017.
The board meeting starts at 6 p.m. tonight at Jeffco school district offices, 1829 Denver West Drive, Golden.
Photo: Trading Academy Creative Commons, Flickr.
Like this story? Steal it! Feel free to republish it in part or in full, just please give credit to The Colorado Independent and add a link to the original.
SIGN UP FOR OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
To celebrate 50 years of the Colorado Open Records Act, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition presents “Sunshine in Your Pocket,” offering tools for both […]Read More
Republican candidates for governor vigorously defended Colorado’s oil and gas operators on Wednesday, including Cynthia Coffman who said she has worked on behalf of the […]Read More