The Walton Family Foundation says it invested more than $159 million in education reform initiatives for 2011 primarily in grants to organizations and programs.

Having invested more than $1 billion in education reform, the Walton Family Foundation is the largest donor to initiatives that support parental choice and competition within education.

A press release from the foundation said its investment strategy is intended “to fuel increased achievement in several local public school systems” in an effort to “transform” public education.

“The Walton Family Foundation supports organizations that operate with a sense of urgency and an unrelenting commitment to raising student achievement, particularly in low-income communities,” said Buddy D. Philpot, Executive Director of the Walton Family Foundation. “In 2011, legislators across the country responded to the demands of millions of parents and expanded access to publicly funded educational options with unprecedented commitment. These bold policy steps reinforce the need and desire for choice from families across the United States. When all parents have the ability to choose quality schools for their children, a competitive dynamic emerges that can inspire the broader public school system to improve, helping transform public education in our nation.”

Some of the grants given by the Walton Foundation were used to expand public charter schools and to finance scholarships for private schools for more than 200,000 low-income families.

The foundation focused its investments in 2011 in 16 investment cities that serve high concentrations of low-income families and don’t offer high-performing schools to all their students. They include Albany, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Harlem, New York, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Newark, New Jersey, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

The foundation also announced large, multi-year strategic investments in each of its three key initiatives this year:

Shaping Public Policy
California Charter Schools Association – $15 million
The foundation’s investment is expected to allow 100,000 additional children the ability to attend a high-quality public charter school over the next three years.

Creating Quality Schools
KIPP Foundation – $25.5 million
The foundation’s investment will double the number of students who attend KIPP schools over the next five years.

Improving Existing Schools
Teach For America – $49.5 million
The foundation’s investment will allow Teach For America to double the size of its teaching corps over five years.

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