BAEO started operations with a $900,000 budget. According to the right-wing weekly Human Events, this came entirely from the Walton Family Foundation. Through the Walton Family Foundation, Wal-Mart heir John Walton is one of the voucher movement’s most prolific donors, providing a steady stream of money for almost every element of the movement, from think tanks to political campaigns.
On the policy and research front, the Walton Foundation funds pro-voucher think tanks like the Goldwater Institute and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. On the legislative front, John Walton personally contributed $2 million to the failed 2000 Michigan voucher initiative28 as well as $250,000 to California’s Prop 174 in 1993, another unsuccessful voucher initiative.29 Walton also bankrolled the California effort through his American Education Reform Foundation30, as well as an unsuccessful 1997 voucher campaign in Minnesota.31
When voucher programs in Wisconsin and Ohio came under legal fire, right-wing legal groups like the Landmark Legal Foundation and Institute for Justice (IJ), with financial support from both the Walton and Bradley Foundations, defended them in court.32 IJ’s co-founder, Clint Bolick, who previously worked for Landmark, has strong ties to the anti-affirmative action movement, authoring the book “The Affirmative Action Fraud: Can We Restore the American Civil Rights Vision?”33
The Walton Foundation granted more than $14 million in 2000 to private “scholarship” funds.34 These private voucher programs are often started and funded by the same people who are lobbying for publicly-funded vouchers. They believe that privately-funded voucher programs will help create political momentum toward publicly-funded vouchers.