Alice Walton, the daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, donated $600,000 last week to an initiative to allow charter schools in Washington state, helping to bring the effort’s fundraising to $3.3 million.
Also last week, Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer contributed $250,000, bringing his total investment to $450,000, according to public disclosure documents. And Mike and Jackie Bezos, the parents of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, kicked in another $50,000, bringing their total to half a million.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is still leading the group, however, with $1 million donated.
The eye-popping sums come before Initiative 1240 has even qualified for the ballot; the Secretary of State’s office is currently reviewing the more than 350,000 signatures that supporters submitted earlier this month.
If it is placed on the ballot, as expected, the initiative would mark the fourth time voters have considered permitting charter schools.
The free public schools, which operate independent of traditional school districts, are hotly debated based on their mixed results and unconventional techniques, including the hiring of nonunion workers.
Supporters say they’re confident they will win this year. They’ve predicted they will earn donations of all different sizes, but as of last week, the initiative had only gained donations from one family who contributed less than $1,000.
People for Our Public Schools, a group formed to oppose I-1240, were still reporting raising $16,000.