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PSAT for 8-20-13: Don't buy school supplies at WalMart!

More school for your money?
More school for your money?
WalMart web site

Public Schools Action Tuesday is usually about something you can/should do to support public education. Today it’s about something you shouldn’t do.

DON’T BUY SCHOOL SUPPLIES AT WALMART!

It’s that time of year when everyone is stocking up on new notebooks, shiny folders, colorful pencils.

It’s also a time when parents, teachers and students in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington DC are feeling more dread and despair than the excitement that usually accompanies the first day of school. That's because we can see so how the privatization and austerity moves in these cities are threatening every fundamental of our children’s education.

It’s a terrible time. It’s a time to act locally, but also to think and act globally. We have to do both – the corporate privatizers have way too much money to spend on their pet strategies, and that money is coming from us.

Much of the blame for the disaster in our nation’s public schools today can be traced to the Walton family’s wealth, which in turn comes from the money people spend in their stores on school supplies and other items. Here’s what some $700 million of the money people spent at WalMart between 2005 and 2010 went to support and promote:

  • More charter schools: $3.8 million in Chicago alone, including $230,000 for the scandal-plagued UNO charter schools.
  • More school closings: $500,000 to pay for Chicago’s sham “public engagement” school closing hearings.
  • More astroturf “parent” groups like Stand for Children (millions) and Parent Revolution ($6.3 million) to push the parent trigger and other corporate reforms.
  • More high-stakes standardized testing: Walton supports teacher bonuses linked to raising test scores.
  • More vouchers for private and religious schools.
  • More Michelle Rhee: Despite the recent scandals involving Rhee, WalMart recently raised her allowance to the tune of $8 million.

Doesn’t this year’s WalMart’s Back-to-school campaign slogan, ”More School for your money,” just expose the greed behind their schemes?

As I’ve said before, it’s not that I think we can bring WalMart to its fiscal knees with a boycott. But companies like WalMart have what one marketing blogger calls a “fragile corporate image.” They want consumers to think of them as benevolent, loving rich folks who desire nothing more than to take care of the rest of us through their generosity. They want us to have a warm fuzzy feeling when we think about them, which will lead us to ignore their growing reputation as bad bosses, and go out and buy more stuff at their stores.

In fact, WalMart’s public image is getting more fragile all the time – read “The Real WalMart: Six Big Fibs in WalMart’s New Ad Campaign” by Calvin F. Exoo in yesterday’s Daily Kos, which suggests that WalMart is feeling the heat.

In all likelihood, the Waltons actually want our children to get a poorer, narrower education (or drop out early) so that the best they will be able to aspire to is working for low wages and few if any benefits at WalMart, leaving them little choice but to shop at WalMart in order to stretch their pennies.

So, where should you shop?

I’m not in the business of promoting one business over another, but I did do some research into Office Depot’s corporate giving and I can’t find anything like the rap sheet on the Waltons. In fact, Office Depot offers special rebates to teachers, provides grants for teacher-determined projects on the order of the Donors Choose program, gives away thousands of backpacks every year to low-income children including students in Navajo Nation schools, and even supports Lady Gaga’s anti-bullying efforts.

Just saying.