Our frequent commentator Laura H. Chapman, whose wise analyses so frequently inform all of us, has done some research on the billionaire class. I would add that her second category of schools, public in name only (PINO), includes for-profit charters.



Many of the billionaires in Forbes 2015 list claim to be self-made and to come from a low to moderate income family. Those are self-reports with no backup data worthy of mention by Forbes.



According to the Forbes 2015 list of the wealthiest people in the world, The United States has 536 billionaires worth $2.6 trillion.



In 2014 Warren Buffet made $14.5 billion.



Among the wealthiest in the US, 23 % of the billionaires claim to have been raised in a household that was “poor,” 17% in a “working class” family. Here are some of the top billionaires and major source of wealth.



Bill Gates, Microsoft, $ 79.2 billion…
Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway, $72.7 billion…
Larry Ellis, Oracle, 54.3 billion…
Charles Koch, Diversified, $42.9 billion…G. Davis Koch, Diversified, $42.9 billion… Christy Walton, Walmart $41.7 billion…Jim Walton, Walmart $40.6 billion…Alice Walton, Walmart $39.4 billion… S. Robert Walton, Walmart $39.1 billion…
Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg, $35.5 billion…Jeff Bezos, Amazon, $34.8 billion…Mark Zuckenberg, Facebook, $33.4 million….Sheldon Adelson, Casinos, $31.4 billion…Larry Page, Google, $29.7 billion…Sergey Brin, Google, $29.2 billion…
Forrest Mars, Jr., Candy, $26.6 billion….Jacquelin Mars Candy, $26.6 billion….John Mars, Candy, $26.6 billion….
George Soros, Hedge funds, $24.2 billion…Carl Icahn, Investments, $23.5 billion…Steve Ballmer, Microsoft, $21.5 billion… Phil Knight, Nike, $21.5 billion… Len Blavatnik, Diversified, $20.2 billion…Charles Ergen, Dish Network, $20.1 billion…Lauren Powell Jobs, Apple & Disney, $19.5 billion…Michael Dell, Dell, $19.2 billion…



So far as I know, only a few analytical studies have been done on the interconnections among grants flowing into K-12 education and the major foundations, many set up by billionaires. Here are some recent findings.



In 2010, the top 15 grant makers for K-12 education (based on IRS filings) were: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Broad Foundation, GE Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, Communities Foundation of Texas, and Ford Foundation.



In 2010, the top “convergent grantees”–beneficiaries of multiple funders were:

Charter School Growth Fund $46 million, 6 funders;
Teach for America, $44.5 million, 13 funders;
KIPP, $24 million, 9 funders;
D.C. Public Education Fund, $22 million, 5 funders (set up for merit pay) ;
New Schools Venture Fund, $18 million, 10 funders.



The researchers noted a dramatic increase in convergent grant making between the first year they studied, 2000, and the last, 2010. The increase was not only in dollars but also in the proportion groups that received funds from two or more foundations. As one example, funding for traditional public schools dropped from 16% of grant dollars in 2000 to 8% in 2010 while charter school funding rose from about 3% in 2000 to 16% in 2010.



Source: Reckhow, S & Snyder, J. W. (2014, May). The expanding role of philanthropy in education politics. Education researcher, 43, 4, pp.186-195. Or see Sarah Reckhow, (2013). Follow the money, How foundations dollars change public school politics. NNY: Harvard Education Press.



Plenty of money is around, and it is increasingly used to create a tripartate system of education.

One is truly public, tax-supported with governance by democratically elected school boards.

One is public in name only, tax subsidized, but with governance that is not fully public or democratically determined.

The third is private education, including for-profit-by-design education.