Peter Greene wrote in Forbes about the bizarre decision by the Gates Foundation to give nearly $1 million to the Reason Foundation, a libertarian foundation that doesn’t believe in public schools and seldom believes in anything the government does on behalf of its citizens. They believe, I suppose, in a feral society where there is minimal government, minimal taxes, and everyone fends for him or herself. I remembered that the Gates Foundation once gave a grant of nearly $400,000 to the far-right American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), which opposes public schools, unions, environmental regulations, gun control, and most every other government activity.

Greene writes:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a grant of $900,117 to the Reason Foundation. The award’s stated purpose is “to ensure that State funding adequately and equitably supports the pursuit of improved educational outcomes for low income, Black and Latinx Students.”

The Reason Foundation is a think tank whose stated purpose is to advance “a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law.” They use “journalism and public policy research to influence the framework and actions of policymakers, journalists and opinion leaders.” They favor limited government and market-friendly policies.

The Gates Foundation has long pushed policies in education, including the financing of the ultimately-unsuccessful small schools initiative and widespread influence in the creation and implementation of the controversial Common Core State Standards.

According to the Gates database, they have never before given a grant to the Reason Foundation. The two are not an obvious match; in fact, Reason was highly critical of the Common Core initiative that Gates spent millions to promote.

Reason’s approach to education has emphasized choice, particularly school vouchers. Over the years they have cranked out papers to support these market-based policies, though these papers have not met with enthusiasm from education policy analysts, who have used phrases like “carefully selected examples intended to support a particular perspective,” “off the rails,” “not a credible policy document,” “little more than a polemic,” and “reckless and irresponsible.”

It is not clear what the actual project behind this grant might be. Search the Reason website for “low-income students” and it turns up many articles about how school choice and voucher programs would improve school for these students. The same for a search for “Black students.” (”Latinx students” does not appear on the website at all.)

The grant language is also interesting in that it suggests that Reason’s program is not about establishing a program, but about finding ways to influence the path of state funding. The end result of this may not simply be about spending Gates money, but about spending taxpayer dollars as well.

This is a strange grant because Reason has never showed any interest in education other than to promote vouchers.