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WALTON FAMILY FOUNDATION AWARDS $2 MILLION GRANT

WALTON FAMILY FOUNDATION AWARDS $2 MILLION GRANT

For more information, contact
Sue Owens, Executive Director
501-682-4349
Sue@economicsarkansas.org

July 12, 2016

For Release to Statewide Media
For Immediate Release

WALTON FAMILY FOUNDATION AWARDS $2 MILLION GRANT
To serve as the lead gift endowing the Economics Arkansas Foundation.

LITTLE ROCK—The Walton Family Foundation awarded a $2 million lead gift to endow the Economics Arkansas Foundation as it seeks to reach more teachers and ultimately PreK-12 students who will become the future producers, consumers, savers, investors and citizens of this state and nation.
“We are deeply humbled by this generous gift,” said Sue Owens, executive director of Economics Arkansas, a nonprofit educational organization whose work will be supported by the Foundation. “We hope their lead gift will encourage other donors to consider supporting the exciting plans we have to expand our programs and training.”
Established in early 2016, the Economics Arkansas Foundation has a goal to establish an $8 million endowment to assist Economics Arkansas in the execution of a new strategic plan, which will be finalized by year end.
The organization has grown from training 1,000 PreK-12 teachers annually in 2004, to almost 2,000 in 2016, but it is time to “step on the gas” according to Executive Director, Sue Owens. “With over 30,000 teachers in the state, we are just scratching the surface. The future of our state and nation depends on young people having higher levels of economic and financial literacy when they leave school and enter a global economy.”
The strategic plan developed by board and staff has initially identified 3 main objectives the endowment will support:

1. Maximize effectiveness and reach to teachers and students; demonstrate Return-on-Investment-ROI (Program focus)

2. Advance financial and economic literacy in Arkansas PreK-12 education. (Advocacy focus)

3. Ensure the future of Economics Arkansas (Infrastructure focus)

The first objective includes goals to: increase the number of teachers trained annually, increase teachers and students involved in “signature” programs, and institute a standardized evaluation instrument to measure ROI from all outreach efforts. The organization is experiencing high demand for signature programs, such as The Stock Market Game Program, which grew 28% last school year with student impact of close to 13,000. Students manage a $100,000 hypothetical investment portfolio by trading “live” in the stock market, which teaches them key concepts about our economy and how to save and invest for the future, plus the program integrates math, social studies, economics, technology, and higher level thinking. CHOICES is also experiencing fast paced growth as Economics Arkansas became the 2nd highest presenter of CHOICES in the nation last school year with 134 classrooms reached. Owens shared, “We are finding CHOICES fits beautifully into 8th grade Career and Technical Ed classrooms, and it reaches students at a critical point in their lives. The program “turns on the light bulb” for students to understand they can live the life of their dreams if they take control of their own life, and for those living in poverty - it is a life-changing message.” During a CHOICES presentation, the comparison is made between the original cell phone compared to today’s iPhones. Students agree they would not purchase the original cell phone as it did one thing – make calls. Students want an iPhone that has many apps! Employers want the same thing – they need a workforce with skills, talents, and education, so students learn they are in “production” while in school – they are adding to their human capital and are becoming an “asset” for a market-based economy.
“Economics also includes teaching students how to make more informed decisions. Economics is the science-of-decision making, and we want to help students make better choices for their future. As one teacher shared with a group of donors, ‘Our lives are an accumulation of all our past choices, so we can help Arkansas students build happier lives by teaching them about the costs and benefits of their decisions.’ In addition, it is critical personal finance is taught beginning at a young age and all through the grade levels – we can win the battle against financial illiteracy if our state makes it a priority. Additionally, economic education helps students understand the global economy and the importance of entrepreneurship and free enterprise to our state and the nation.”
The second objective is focused on advancing economic and financial literacy in the state. This will be a collaborative effort with state educators and stakeholders to strengthen the standards in these subjects. For example, students in Arkansas are not required to have a class in personal finance before they graduate, plus there are no K-8 personal finance standards. A personal finance course is an elective in most school districts. Arkansas does require a semester course in economics for graduation, and this course contains some personal finance standards, but it is not comprehensive. “There are innovative ways to embed economics and personal finance across the curriculum,” stated Owens. “Growing the endowment may also allow Economics Arkansas to make a meaningful contribution to economic education research both for Arkansas and the nation.”
The third objective is to ensure Economics Arkansas has a footprint into the future. According to Owens, “Dr. Arch Ford and Dr. Bessie B. Moore created one of the most successful state councils on economic education in the nation, so we have a 54-year legacy to both protect and nurture. During my tenure, I’ve seen other state councils in the country fail or falter due to lack of resources. As we expand, we need both proper infrastructure and financial resources in place to support our programs and training into the future.”
Economics Arkansas offers professional development training and resources to PreK-12 teachers in all public and independent schools in the state. Since its inception in 1962 under the leadership of Dr. Arch Ford and Dr. Bessie B. Moore, the organization has been credited nationally for its legacy of excellence. Economics Arkansas has a dedicated statewide board of directors and a highly tenured staff who embrace the mission with a passion. Executive Director Sue Owens has served for the past 12 years and is currently President of the National Association of Economic Educators. “The Walton family has supported our mission to increase economic literacy dating back to the early days of the organization. Receiving a lead endowment gift from the Walton Family Foundation continues a beautiful legacy of support, which ultimately benefits Arkansas students and the future of our state.”

For more information about Economics Arkansas and its programs and training for teachers and students, please visit www.economicsarkansas.org.

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