Why They Give

Walmart's growth has made the Walton family quite wealthy. They created a charitable foundation. It has donated more than $1 billion to K-12 education. Many charter schools, including ours, have gotten support from them. In fact, the first big check I got in 1999 for Match was from Walton Family Foundation, for $125,000.

I'd held 6-figure checks before. Never made out to myself, alas. One of my first jobs out of college was working for a Broadway theater producer as a flunkie. These guys.

One of my tasks was taking large amounts of box office receipts to Chemical Bank, then stopping on the way back to get matzo ball soup for my boss. Another task was sending $100,000 royalty checks to A.R. Gurney, for Love Letters. Theater companies all over the country put on the play constantly, and he was raking in the royalties.

But I digress. The Walton check to the "Media and Technology Charter School" was the first I had any "control" over. There were no restrictions. One of the first expenditures was for a tiny office near Boston City Hospital. Man, I cooked up a lot of dumb pedagogical ideas in that office (which later needed to be unwound once we actually had a school). But the cash was sorely needed: hard to imagine how I could have limped to the starting line without it. I bet a bunch of charter founders would say the same thing.

Here's a new 3-minute video about the Walton Family Foundation's vision.