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Ed reform, brought to you by Walmart

The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss has a fascinating follow-the-money look at the Walton Family Foundation's influence on so-called education reform. The foundation spent an astonishing $157 million on education-related activities last year, with a healthy chunk of money flowing to Indiana.

The Foundation for Educational Choice, the group that did the heavy lifting for the state's new publicly funded voucher program, collected $735,000 from the Walton foundation.

Among the grants the Foundation for Educational Choice has made, according to tax documents, is $25,000 to the Education Action Group, a Michigan-based outfit that sends anti-union messages to Indiana teachers.

Indiana Public Charter Schools Association received $594,000 from the Walton foundation. The University of Notre Dame collected nearly $2.24 million and several Indiana charter schools received grants. Notre Dame will host a school choice conference this week.

More dollars undoubtedly flowed to Indiana through other channels. The foundation gave $2.3 million to the Alliance for School Choice, a group with ties to Betsy DeVos' American Federation for Children. DeVos is the daughter-in-law of the Amway founder and sister of Blackwater founder Erik Prince. American Federation for Children's mailing address is the same as Terre Haute attorney James Bopp, champion of right-wing causes and defender of wayward GOP pols like Matt Kelty and Charlie White.

Rachel Tabachnik at Talk to Action has the definitive post on the intricate web of money and school choice policy in Indiana.

Bottom line? Anyone who thinks the aggressive education agenda that breezed through the Indiana Statehouse this year was driven by ordinary Hoosiers is sadly mistaken. The strings were pulled from Bentonville, Ark.; Grand Rapids, Mich., and elsewhere.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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