Archives for category: Gates Foundation

This is a must-read article by Linsey McGoey in Jacobin magazine about the big foundations–especially Gates–and how they use their alms for for-profit companies and start-ups.


McGoey of the University of Essex has written a book on the influence wielded by Gates and other big philanthropies. It’s title: “No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy”  (Verso).


“In 2010, the Gates Foundation offered $1.5 million to ABC News and a little over $1.1 million to NBC in 2011 “to support the national education summit.” The following year, the Gates Foundation gave another million to NBC, this time for the more vague purpose of “inform[ing] and engag[ing] communities.” Other for-profit media companies receiving Gates Foundation money in 2012 included Univision — a Spanish language broadcaster whose parent company, Univision Communications pulled in revenues of $2.6 billion in 2014.


“Traditionally, philanthropic grants to for-profits were rare, but this is no longer the case. The Gates Foundation has offered dozens of grants to for-profit companies around the world, including beneficiaries poised to profit from the Common Core standards…


“Indeed, the Gates Foundation makes similar donations all the time. Scholastic, a company that, like Pearson, is a for-profit education publisher, has received over $6 million in grant money from the foundation. A November 2011 grant of $4,463,541 was designed to support “teachers’ implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.”


“What’s not clear is why this counts as charity. Doesn’t Scholastic stand to gain from the expansion of textbook and testing materials accompanying the Common Core standards?”


She goes on to describe other for-profits that Gates has supported, such as


“Indeed, numerous for-profit education start-ups are indebted to the foundation. Another example, BetterLesson Inc., billed as the “Facebook for educators,” circulates free online lesson plans to teachers but charges schools a service fee. It has received over $3.5 million in grant money from the Gates Foundation. BetterLesson may well prove to be a useful tool for teachers.


“But it also charges a premium for that service — a cost borne by taxpayer-funded public education institutions. At a time of growing anger over dwindling educational resources in public schools, at a time when extreme poverty is on the rise in the United States — does yet another tech start-up deserve Gates’ charity?….


“Contrary to the conventional wealth-creation narrative, large multinationals are increasingly assuming less financial risk when it comes to investing their own capital — even as they reap excessive financial rewards by exploiting subsidies from the public sector and philanthropic foundations. Companies like Mastercard are just as bullish and self-satisfied about the charity they receive as the charity they give away.


“But challenging the new corporate charity claimants will not, alone, mitigate the unrivalled power of large philanthropic funders to frame the terms of debate in the fields of education, health and global poverty or shape the policies of institutions such as the WHO.


“Over a century ago, when Andrew Carnegie published his first “Wealth” essay suggesting that private philanthropy would solve the problem of rich and poor, he was met with fierce rebuke. “I can conceive of no greater mistake,” commented William Jewett Tucker, a theologian who went on to become president of Dartmouth College, “than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice.”


“Today’s philanthrocrats share Carnegie’s gospel of wealth. To take back the mantle of justice and equality, the Left must delegitimize private foundations and refute the centrality of charity in solving the world’s most pressing problems.”

The Network for Public Education has created an interactive graphic and a narrative that describe Bill Gates’ experimentation on our nation’s children over the past year. It is a must-see!

The extent of Gates’ meddling, says Carol Burris, is breathtaking; the results are not.


Burris and Anthony Cody write:


In his October 7 speech as he ruminated on how his foundation shaped educational policy and practice for the past fifteen years, Bill Gates spoke of the importance of what he called “high impact” strategies. His speech contained only one acknowledgement of error on his and Melinda’s part – and it was an error of the most innocent sort. He said they had been “naïve” in the way in which they rolled out the Common Core. Apparently they did not anticipate that democracy might get in the way of their plans.


For Bill Gates this has all been a grand experiment, one that he believes he is entitled to conduct on our children, our teachers and our schools. It is astounding that a man, who has no qualifications to guide our nation’s educational system has been allowed, by virtue of his fortune, to meddle in it as he has.


Although he spoke of the importance of continuous learning, (even admitting that the Gates Foundation still had a great deal to learn), Bill Gates did not show any signs of veering from the checkered record of their past 15 years of pushing the United States to adopt his vision of K12 education reform.


We at the Network for Public Education, however, will not let Mr. Gates, his wife or his Foundation off the hook. And so we bring you this special report on the grand experiment of Bill Gates. The breadth and scope of meddling is breathtaking. The evidence of success is not.



Marla Kilfoyle is executive director of the BadAss Teachers Association (BATs) and a 29-year veteran of teaching.

In this post, she says that the #TeachStrong campaign is yet another effort to blame teachers instead of supporting them.

The groups aligned with #TeachStrong are recipients of Gates funding; she looks only at the last year of funding. Some of these groups have received many millions from Gates in the past.

She has her own ideas about how to improve teaching:

Here would be my humble, “teacher of 29 years in public education”, suggestion for a 5 point plan to challenge TeachStrong to do something that could actually help children and teachers.
1. Rehire the 7,000 teachers who were fired in Chicago over the last two years.
2. Return the over 7,000 teachers who lost their jobs in New Orleans after Katrina and use them to help rebuild the public school system.
2. Start to assist in the rebuilding of the Detroit Public School system and promote the return of its exiled elected school board.
3. Promote and create PUBLIC SCHOOLS with wrap around services in every community of need in America. End school closings and use teachers to set policies for schools that struggle.
4. Begin a campaign that promotes the hiring of teachers of color and an end to pushing out our veteran teachers.
5. Begin a campaign that includes all government agencies to eradicate child poverty, gentrification of neighborhoods around America, and address issues of systemic racism that not only exist in education policy but also in our communities.

I dare you to try that 5 point plan.

Bill Gates recently said that he didn’t realize how hard it was to change education. It is really hard work. He has no idea. Sitting in his air-conditioned offices overlooking Seattle, flying in his personal jet, relaxing on his family yacht, surrounded by hordes of assistants and aides, he has no idea of what teachers do and no understanding of why his efforts to “reform” schools keep failing. He thinks it is hard work.


But, in Valerie Strauss’ blog, she quotes Nancy E. Bailey, a special education teacher who left the classroom because of the damage done to her students by high-stakes testing. Bailey explains to Gates what is really hard work. It is harder than “philanthropic work.”


Bailey, who wrote the 2013 book “Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students,” challenged Melinda and Bill Gates to spend “some serious time in poor public schools” to learn what is really hard in education for teachers and students — and to “spend time with the many moms of students with disabilities who home-school not because they want to, but because schools have cut special education services.”


Here is a shortened version of her admittedly incomplete list of what’s really hard in education (and you can see the full blog post and list here):


Being an over-tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
Working as a teacher on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty and must deal with the many troubling consequences that come with a life lived in hardship.
Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
Being made to read before you are ready,
Failing third grade based on one test.
Being a high school student who has to focus on test-taking and not given ample time to explore real career options.
Being poor and working only in math and reading with little opportunity to participate in music or art classes.
Deciding if you can afford to leave teaching because you hate the changes that negatively impact children, including all the high-stakes Common Core testing.
Knowing you have to teach to pay the bills but understanding why parents dislike you for being forced to implement harsh reforms.
Being told you will have to reapply for the job you need in the career you hold dear because your school has been turned into a charter school.
Working with overcrowded class sizes because some reformer doesn’t know better and thinks class size doesn’t matter.
Not being able to get to all your students because your paraprofessional has been let go.
Not being able to go to the bathroom when you need to because your paraprofessional has been let go.
Not being paid for a master’s degree on which you spent time and money to better yourself professionally.
Working in a crummy school building while a brand new charter school is opened down the street.
Getting judged for your teaching by the test scores of students you don’t have.
Being forced to focus more on data than children, and filling out mounds of time-consuming and often useless paperwork.
Watching your young students fail computer-based tests because they can’t type fast enough.
Knowing how much time you spent learning to be a teacher and watching others with inadequate training get jobs.
Being forced to put away your developmentally appropriate student play kitchens, puppets and costumes in kindergarten.
Seeing your school put money into iPads when there are so many other things needed.
Working in a school with no librarian or media specialist.
Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
Not having enough guidance counselors to work with you when your student has mental health issues.
Not having appropriate special education services to offer children who need them.
Being a student in a no-excuse charter school and knowing that you could be punished for the smallest disciplinary infraction.
Having your local school board ignore your pleas to keep your public school open.




What if you build it and it collapses? Well, you can always try to “stay the course.”

Or, in the case of Hillsborough County, Florida, you can start all over again and just write off the millions of dollars already spent on a failed teacher evaluation system as a bad debt. Just pay it off and move on.

Valerie Strauss reports that the new superintendent of schools in Hillsborough County (who followed MaryEllen Elia, who was fired, then hired as New York State Commissioner of Education) has decided to drop the Gates-funded teacher evaluation plan. Gates promised $100 million but delivered only $80 million because the approach wasn’t working.

Strauss writes:

Here we go again. Another Bill Gates-funded education reform project, starting with mountains of cash and sky-high promises, is crashing to Earth.

This time it’s the Empowering Effective Teachers, an educator evaluation program in Hillsborough County, Florida, which was developed in 2009 with major financial backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A total of more than $180 million has been spent on the project since then — with Gates initially promising some $100 million of it — but now, the district, one of the largest in the country, is ending the program.


Under the system, 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation would be based on student standardized test scores and the rest by observation from “peer evaluators.” It turned out that costs to maintain the program unexpectedly rose, forcing the district to spend millions of dollars more than it expected to spend. Furthermore, initial support among teachers waned, with teachers saying that they don’t think it accurately evaluated their effectiveness and that they could be too easily fired.

Now the new superintendent of schools in Hillsborough, Jeff Eakins, said in a missive sent to the evaluators and mentors that he is moving to a different evaluation system, according to this story in the Tampa Bay Times. It says:

“Unlike the complex system of evaluations and teacher encouragement that cost more than $100 million to develop and would have cost an estimated $52 million a year to sustain, Hillsborough will likely move to a structure that has the strongest teachers helping others at their schools.”

Eakins said he envisions a new program featuring less judgmental “non-evaluative feedback” from colleagues and more “job-embedded professional development,” which is training undertaken in the classroom during the teacher work day rather than in special sessions requiring time away from school. He said in his letter that these elements were supported by “the latest research.”

This may be the beginning of the end for test-based accountability. It has not worked anywhere, and it has cost the schools of the nation hundreds of millions–or more likely–billions of dollars that would have been better spent on reducing class sizes, promoting desegregation, opening health clinics, and hiring teacher of the arts.

Emily Talmage, Maine teacher and blogger, began to wonder whether there was a connection between Maine’s Common Core standards, its Smarter Balanced tests, and its proficiency-based tests. She did some research, and you won’t be surprised–although she was–to learn that behind everything was ………the Gates Foundation!

Whether it was the Nellie Mae Education Foundation or Great Schools or Educate Maine, the money came from Gates.

“Several months ago, while conducting some much overdue research into the back-story of Common Core, I stumbled across a document from the Gates Foundation that painted such a frighteningly clear picture of next-gen ed-reform that I actually wondered for a time if perhaps I was hallucinating.

I wasn’t, and within a very short time, it became unmistakably obvious that the Common Core Standards, our new Smarter Balanced test, and Maine’s one of a kind (but not for long if they have their way, so watch out!) proficiency-based diploma mandate were all linked like pieces of a puzzle to a corporate-driven agenda to transform our schools into “personalized” (digital!) learning environments. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, see here for more.)

Quite literally sick to my stomach, I emailed a union rep to ask if he knew anything about the paper I had found.

“It’s ghastly,” he replied, “but in Maine, it has been the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Great Schools Partnership that has been behind these policies.”

Okay. So maybe I was mistaken. Nellie Mae sounded friendly enough. So did Great Schools. (Who doesn’t like great schools?)”

What’s the bottom line? Online digital learning for all, linked to online assessments.

At the ten-year anniversary of Bill Gates’ pledge to solve the problems of the world, the great man said four times that he was “naive.”

Sandi Doughton of the Seattle Times writes:

When he took the stage this fall to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his signature global health research initiative, Bill Gates used the word “naive” — four times — to describe himself and his charitable foundation.

It was a surprising admission coming from the world’s richest man.

But the Microsoft co-founder seemed humbled that, despite an investment of $1 billion, none of the projects funded under the Gates Foundation’s “Grand Challenges” banner has yet made a significant contribution to saving lives and improving health in the developing world.

“I was pretty naive about how long that process would take,” Gates told a gathering of nearly 1,000 people in Seattle.

Launched with fanfare a decade ago, the original Grand Challenges program mobilized leading scientists to tackle some of the toughest problems in global health. Gates handed out nearly half a billion dollars in grants to 45 “dream teams” of researchers working on everything from tuberculosis drugs and new vaccine strategies to advanced mosquito repellents and bananas genetically engineered to boost nutrition.

But five years in, Gates said he could see that it would be at least another decade before even the most promising of those projects paid off.

Not only did he underestimate some of the scientific hurdles, Gates said. He and his team also failed to adequately consider what it would take to implement new technologies in countries where millions of people lack access to basic necessities such as clean water and medical care.

While continuing to support a handful of the “big science” projects, the foundation in 2008 introduced a program of small, highly focused grants called Grand Challenges Explorations.

With headline-grabbing goals like condoms that feel good and waste-to-energy toilets, the explorations initiative has probably garnered more media attention than anything else the giant philanthropy has undertaken.

But none of those projects has yet borne fruit, either….

All of the original projects yielded good science, and many produced new understanding or tools likely to prove valuable down the road. But the foundation estimates only 20 percent are on track to have a real-world impact — a rate Gates said is in line with what he expected going in.

Among his favorite projects is an effort to eliminate Dengue fever by infecting mosquitoes with bacteria that block disease transmission. Another is a spinoff biotech working on a probiotic to cure cholera.

But critics say projects like those demonstrate the foundation’s continuing emphasis on technological fixes, rather than on the social and political roots of poverty and disease.

“The main harm is in the opportunity cost,” said Dr. David McCoy, a public-health expert at Queen Mary University, London. “It’s in looking constantly for new solutions, rather than tackling the barriers to existing solutions.”

The toll of many diseases could be lowered simply by strengthening health systems in developing countries, he said. Instead, programs like Grand Challenges — heavily promoted by the Gates Foundation’s PR machine — divert the global community’s attention from such needs, McCoy argues….

When several Gates-funded, high-tech toilets were installed in the Indian city of Raichur last year, at a cost of about $8,000 each, residents refused to use them. Many of the other toilet prototypes funded through Grand Challenges are so complex, with solar panels and combustion chambers, they would never prove practical, said Jason Kass, founder of Toilets for People, a company that sells simple, composting toilets to nonprofits in the developing world.

“If the many failed development projects of the past 60 years have taught us anything, it’s that complicated, imported solutions do not work,” Kass wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed entitled “Bill Gates Can’t Build a Toilet.”

But senior program officer Doulaye Koné said the foundation is looking beyond technology this time. The goal is to mass-produce the toilets to bring the price down, then foster a self-sustaining system in which private companies install and service the units for a small fee….

While the Gates version is still looking for its first home run, some of the spinoffs have already logged modest successes.

Production is expected to start soon on a USAID-backed device invented by an Argentine car mechanic to ease difficult births. And the agency estimates that 5,000 young lives in Nepal have already been saved by a low-cost antiseptic gel used to swab the umbilical cord after birth.

USAID Administrator Raj Shah, a former top Gates Foundation official, said he and his staff applied lessons learned at the foundation to ensure their version would yield payoffs.

“We proudly borrowed the idea,” Shah said. “But we designed our Grand Challenges program to have impact quickly, at scale.”

John Thompson, historian and teacher, wonders why the Gates Foundation is so slow to recognize the failure of his teacher evaluation initiative and mitigate the damage he has done to so many teachers who were unjustly fired. Here is the case of Tulsa:

I don’t speak billionaire-ese, but Bill Gates’s 15th-anniversary presentation on his foundation’s education investments seemed to be inching towards a non-apology, concession of sorts. The weird concept of using test score growth to hold individual educators accountable was apparently born behind closed doors; the seed was supposedly planted by an economist and a bureaucrat who wowed Gates with their claim that test scores could be used in a statistical model that would drive the making of better teachers. Apparently, Gates was not briefed on the overwhelming body of social science that argued against this hypothesis as a real-world policy.

Gates apparently was unaware that so-called value-added models (VAMs) were “junk science,” at least in terms of evaluating individuals, and they weren’t intended to make a direct educational contribution to school improvement. He might not have fully understood that VAMs were a political club to intimidate teachers and unions into accepting market-driven reforms.

The value-added portion of teacher evaluations was no different than “Waiting for Superman,” the teacher-bashing propaganda film promoted by Gates. Corporate reformers used top-dollar public relations campaigns and testing regimes to treat educators like the metaphoric mule – busting us upside the head in order to get our attention.

Now, Gates says, “The early days almost went too well for us. … There was adoption, everything seemed to be on track. … We didn’t realize the issue would be confounded with what is the appropriate role of the federal and state government, we didn’t think it would be confounded with questions about are there too many tests” and other controversies.

Gates complains that school reform is harder than his global health initiatives because “when we come up with a new malaria vaccine, nobody votes to undo our malaria vaccine. (emphasis mine) Gates, however, would have never tried to invent a malaria vaccine without consulting with doctors and scientists, would he? Even if the goal is creating his vaccine, it would have been subject to objective evaluation using the scientific method. So, unlike his teacher evaluations, his vaccines aren’t rejected because they haven’t been an expensive failure.

I’ve spent a lot of time – probably too much – analyzing the ways that the quantitative portions of teacher evaluations are invalid and unreliable for the purposes sought by the Gates Foundation, and trying to communicate with Gates scholars. To their credit, Gates-funded reformers typically acknowledged that they promoted the test-driven part of evaluations while being unaware of the way that schools actually function. In private conversations, I hear that many Gates people now know they were wrong to ignore warnings by social scientists against his VAMs for individuals. They often voice disappointment and regret for their hurried overreach. But, they refuse to admit that it was a bad idea to start down the VAM brick-up-the-side-of-the-teachers’-heads road.

My sense is that a primary issue, today, is the Billionaires Boys Club’s egos, and reformers won’t pull the plug on the high stakes testing until Gates et. al allow them to do so. The recent Bill Gates speech nods in that direction, but it shows that he still hopes to stay the course because … ???

Gates now says, “Because of its complexity, the relationship to management, how labor is one, you can introduce a system … and people say, ‘No, we’d rather have no system at all, completely leave us alone.’” While acknowledging that the mass rejection of his evaluations is “a real possibility,” he still wants to “nurture these systems and get it so there’s critical mass” of systems that implement the Gates policies the way that he wants them to be implemented.

As explained by Lyndsey Layton in the Washington Post, Gates said that “too many school systems are using teacher evaluations as merely a tool for personnel decisions, not helping teachers get better. … ‘Many systems today are about hiring and firing, not a tool for learning.'” He says “the danger is that teachers will reject evaluations altogether,” and “if we don’t get this right … (there will be) cases where teachers prefer to get no feedback at all, which is what they had a decade ago.”

The big problem with imposing Gates’s ill-informed opinion on schools was foreshadowed by his language. After more than 2/3rds of states were coerced into enshrining his risky and untested policies into law, the foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) belatedly concluded that effective teaching can be measured. (emphasis mine) Of, course, that is irrelevant for policy purposes. The question they should have asked was how will those measurements be used? Will they undermine the effectiveness of the majority of teachers? Will VAMs drive good teachers out of urban districts, as they also encourage teach-to-the-test malpractice?

I was in the room for several low-level discussions in 2009 and 2010 when Oklahoma was basically coerced into adopting the federal Gates/Obama agenda. I don’t believe I encountered a single educator – then or subsequently – who has classroom experience and who favored the quantitative portion of the system.

We had no choice but to accept the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness system (TLE) which essentially imposed the Colorado teacher evaluation law on Oklahoma. Teachers and administrators recognized the danger of adopting the test-driven portion of the model that could not control for the essential factor of peer pressure. It was inherently biased against teachers in high-poverty schools, with large numbers of special education students and English Language Learners, and magnet schools where students’ scores have less room to grow. And, the idea that Common Core or any college-readiness curriculum could be adopted while holding individuals accountable for test score growth was obviously nutty!

Gates and Arne Duncan gave educators an offer we couldn’t refuse. The best we could do would be to kick the value-added can down the road. After other states found themselves bogged down in lawsuits and as it proved to be impossible to fund a program that would cost 2% of the entire school budget, we hoped the TLE’s quantitative portion would be quietly abandoned.

Oklahoma’s Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Commission is now asking the questions that Gates and Arne Duncan should have asked years ago. The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger reports that State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister “questioned whether the state can even afford the scheme (the quantitative portion of the TLE). Secondly, she said she doesn’t want to undermine the success of the statewide system for qualitative measures of public school educators.”

Similarly, Senator John Ford, the local sponsor of the TLE legislation, is asking the question that Gates should now consider. I strongly believe Ford was misinformed when he was originally told that TLE-type evaluations weren’t “designed as a ‘gotcha’ system.” But, I’m impressed by the senator’s statement, “Things have changed. We have learned. … We are truly learning, and I don’t think we’re there yet.”

On the other hand, the one Oklahoma district which tried to remain on schedule in implementing the TLE is Tulsa which, of course, received a Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grant. The World’s Eger notes that it “has been credited for helping the district release hundreds of ineffective teachers and identify many more to receive additional support and training.”

Tulsa’s administrator who oversees evaluations, Jana Burk, echoes Gates’s spin, “We don’t want quantitative measures to be the fear factor of bringing somebody’s (evaluation) score down …Principal feedback and support and decision-making is ultimately the foundation, but those quantitative measures need to inform principals’ next steps with teachers and certainly are supposed to be drivers of improvement and reflection, not a hammer of adverse employment decisions in and of themselves.”

So, the Tulsa TLE is a tool for getting rid of hundreds of teachers, i.e “a tool for personnel decisions.” Those released teachers may or may not have been deemed ineffective under the quantitative portion of the TLE, and they may or may not be ineffective in the real world. Perhaps, in some schools, the value-added portion can be a tool that doesn’t interfere with the qualitative portion of the TLE but, in many or most schools, they will be the death of the beneficial part of the evaluation system.

I hope the commission will ask some follow-up questions. Just a couple of months ago, Tulsa’s struggle to find and keep teachers was in the headlines. Despite $28 million of edu-philanthropy in the last seven years, Tulsa’s student performance seems to lag behind that of Oklahoma City, where we face bigger challenges with less money. Moreover, Tulsa was the epicenter of Oklahoma’s Opt Out movement, where two highly respected teachers sacrificed their jobs to protest the excessive testing. Since Tulsa was ranked 6th in the nation in terms of receiving Gates Foundation grants, why haven’t the Gates’s millions worked?

Tulsa’s dubious record should now be studied in an effort to verify Gates’s claim that his measures can be implemented constructively. We should ask how many “ineffective” teachers have been subject to termination due to their failure to meet test score targets? Conversely, how many were flagged by the qualitative portion? How many “exited” teachers were actually ineffective and how many were good and effective teachers who were fed up with the system? Also, how many educators believe that feedback driven by those quantitative measures is actually better than traditional professional development?

Whether we are talking about Gates’s teacher training or his malaria vaccine, if they work then they won’t be rejected. Why won’t Gates look objectively at the evidence about the failure of the quantitative portions of teacher evaluations, and the damage they cause?

Reader Michael Fiorillo writes in response to Carol Burris’s post about Gwen Ifill’s interview of Bill and Melinda Gates:

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby”

The Tampa Bay Tribune reported that school officials in Hillsborough County were surprised to discover a big hole in the budget after Superintendent MaryEllen Elia was fired and became New York State Commissioner of Education.

“TAMPA — In the last four years of superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s administration, the Hillsborough County School District went on a spending jag, tearing through more than half of its $361 million reserve fund, officials revealed this week.

“Left unchecked, the pattern would have resulted in another operating deficit this year — a $75 million hit that would bring the fund down near its legal minimum threshhold.

“The situation has surprised Elia’s successor, unsettled School Board members and put bonding agencies on alert, which could lead to the district facing higher interest rates when it has to borrow money.

“Jeff Eakins, who took over as superintendent after serving as Elia’s deputy, says he was caught off guard when he realized the district used $68.5 million in non-recurring funds to meet this year’s payroll.

“We’re not in any kind of financial crisis,” Eakins told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Tuesday. But, he said, “we need to put some measures in place right now.”

A new pay structure started with funding from the Gates Foundation may cost as much as $50 million.

“It is clear, Eakins said, that the district, which serves more than 200,000 children, is spending money to extend programs that were launched with temporary funding from foundations.

“The Gates grant is one example, as it is in its final year of funding. Expenses anticipated for 2015-16 include $11.3 million for teacher peer evaluators and $6.1 million to pay mentors. Eakins said he will take a close look at these expenditures to see if they are worth sustaining, or if they should be reduced.”


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