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America's Richest, Tax-Dodging, School-Privatizing Family Loves Pedro Martinez And His Board.


It’s good to know that the richest family in America, famous for tax avoidance, paying workers so little that they have to rely on food stamps to survive, and pouring “dark money” into American politics cares so much about SAISD students’ test scores.


You can’t make this stuff up.


Days after we released a second story about how big money school privatizers are celebrating SAISD superintendent Pedro Martinez and his team, a new article was published lauding their achievements in the national press.


The source? The pro-charter, pro-privatization Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the richest family business in America.


And also the one that avoids paying the most taxes.


Imagine all the 21st Century learning tools those tax dollars could buy our students. Imagine the social workers that American schools could employ with that extra tax revenue. Imagine the equitable education possibilities that could be created by ultra-rich Americans paying their fair share. Indeed, the Walton Family’s philanthropic endeavors - arguably themselves little more than a tax-write-off - are dwarfed by their unpaid tax bills.



They’re the family that famously pays their workers so little that they have to survive on social welfare programs to the tune of $6.2 billion taxpayer dollars. Imagine how different our conversations about our students' futures could be if the richest American corporations paid their workers - who are more productive by any measure than at any time in history - a wage that allowed them to live a dignified life.




Most importantly, the Waltons have consistently boasted about the role they have played in supporting the creation of at least one quarter of all charter schools in America. Pedro Martinez, his school board, and leadership team are being celebrated by a foundation that openly and unequivocally advocates for the expansion of charter schools that divert public funds away from already-underfunded public schools.


It's worth considering the kind of future that the Waltons hope to create for our children. It's worth considering whether a family whose contempt for American democracy, American workers, and American taxpayers is the kind of family that a public school superintendent should be happy to be celebrated by. It's worth asking what this family, so emblematic of the excesses and inequalities of modern America, see to celebrate in Pedro Martinez and the "reforms" he's pushing, and whether anything that they celebrate could possibly be good news for the rest of us.


It goes without saying that increasing student achievement, even measured by the deeply flawed metric of standardized state test scores and Texas’ rigged school evaluation system, is cause for celebration.


And it should go without saying that such increases in student achievement are the result of the hard work of thousands of teachers, parents, support workers, school leaders, and students - entire communities striving to transform education in San Antonio - not a few visionary “innovators” working in offices downtown.


But are these scores really the reason why this pro-privatization, anti public sector, anti-union billionaire family are celebrating Pedro Martinez?


Or is it, perhaps, because he has welcomed charter school privatizers with open arms, facilitating their access to the students (and tax dollars) of San Antonio, even calling for public school districts to work together with them?


But are these scores really the reason why this arch-Republican, pro-privatization, anti public sector, anti-union billionaire family are celebrating Pedro Martinez?

Because he is alone among San Antonio superintendents in failing to stand up to charter incursions into the district he governs?


Because he has shown himself willing to steamroll unpopular charter plans over community opposition?


Because he’s given away SAISD schools to be run by charter companies from new York City?


Or maybe because he’s shown his willingness to attack and undermine the teachers’ union that stands in his - and the Waltons’ - way: the democratic voice of the very teachers whose work lies at the heart of this success?


And it should go without saying that such increases in student achievement are the result of the hard work of thousands of teachers, parents, support workers, school leaders, and students - entire communities striving to transform education in San Antonio - not a few visionary “innovators” working in offices downtown.

One thing’s for sure: those of us who believe that student success means more than test scores, that teachers deserve to be fairly paid and respected, and that students and communities should be involved in decisions about their schools have a difficult year ahead.


Pedro Martinez' tax-dodging, dark money-investing, democracy-hating, union-busting friends are coming, and they’re bringing their big-money propaganda machine with them.


2019 is the year we tell them our schools aren’t for sale.