Philanthropist honored for funding school choice

Friday, March 15, 2002 in Daily Oklahoman

By Carla Hinton

John T. Walton, businessman, philanthropist and son of Wal-Mart
founder Sam Walton, was honored Thursday night for his way of
improving the nation’s public education system.

Walton became the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs 2002
Oklahoma Citizenship Award recipient at the organization’s annual
citizenship award dinner held at the National Cowboy and Western
Heritage Museum.

With many members of his family on hand, including his mother,
Claremore native Helen Walton, the philanthropist was recognized
for his pledge to charitable efforts – most notably his $ 50 million
commitment to help create the $ 160 million Children’s Scholarship
Fund. The scholarship fund allows 40,000 parents of poor children
to choose private schools. Walton said he and his family realized the public school system
“is the only place the consumer of the product is totally
powerless.”

His commitment to giving students and their parents a choice in
their educational options grew from that realization, Walton said.

He cited examples in Milwaukee, Texas and Florida where programs
that give students vouchers and other means to attend schools with
optimal educational advantages have helped students reach their
potential and have revitalized public schools in the area.

The council’s chairman and founder, Dr. David R. Brown, lauded
Walton for his role in ensuring children and their parents have a
choice in the matter of education.

“Citizens like John Walton are throwing these children a life
preserver right now,” Brown said.

Brandon Dutcher, the public affairs council’s research director,
said Walton’s willingness to commit his time and resources to the
school choice cause and not waiting on government to solve the
problem was heroic.

“To us, that is citizenship at its best.”

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is a nonprofit,
nonpartisan think tank that formulates public policy research and
analysis consistent with the principles of free enterprise and
limited government.

Walton was given a bronze statue of Oklahoma humorist Will
Rogers and another sculpture.

As part of the awards program, Emily Buckmaster, 7, of Shawnee
presented the businessman with a special medallion. Council
officials said the second-grader attends Liberty Academy of Shawnee
through the Children’s Scholarship Fund supported by Walton.

Other Citizenship Award recipients have included Jeane
Kirkpatrick in 1997, Steve Forbes in 1998, U.S. Supreme Court
Justice Clarence Thomas in 2000 and William F. Buckley Jr. in 2001.

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