Washington, D.C.’s teachers union is expressing outrage over a promotion by Walmart that awards free school supplies to teachers.
Walmart is currently running an election-themed back-to-school promotion in which students can nominate their teacher to be a “commander-in-teach.” Winners of the contest will receive $490 to pay for school supplies in their classroom.
And that has the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) irate. The union, which represents over 5,000 current and former teachers in D.C., says that it’s wrong for Walmart to help teachers when members of the Walton family have also donated money to support charter schools.
“Walmart has tried to position itself as a friend and supporter of public schools and teachers when in reality the opposite is true,” WTU President Elizabeth Davis said in a statement. “Walmart and the Walton Family have consistently sought to privatize our schools and destroy public education.”
D.C. has one of the most robust charter school systems in the country, with about half of all public school students attending them. Despite Davis’ rhetoric, charter schools are still public schools, though many are operated by private organizations. The Walton Family Foundation has donated millions of dollars to various groups supporting charter schools in D.C., part of a national investment that exceeds $1 billion.
But WTU interprets this financial largesse by the Waltons as a sign of their hostility to education, rather than their support.
“Every year, school budgets continue to be cut and teachers are forced to spend hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars of their own money on supplies for their classrooms and their students,” Davis said. “We’re asking our members not to spend their hard-earned money at Walmart. It’s important that public school teachers know that the dollars they spend at Walmart are being used to harm the very schools they work in.”
In a press conference late last week, WTU members even argued that Walmart’s ongoing promotion is “bogus.”
Even without Walmart support, D.C. public schools spend over $18,000 per pupil, one of the highest figures in the country.
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