Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

Rob Reich and Mohit Mookim write in “Wired” about the efforts by Bill Gates, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma to step in and do what the federal government has failed to do in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

They warn:

Public health is a paradigmatic public good. We should never be dependent on the whims of wealthy donors—as philanthropy is increasingly dominated by the wealthy—for our collective health and well-being.

That would be a betrayal of democracy. Rather than democratic processes determining our collective needs and how to address them, the wealthy would decide for us. We wanted rule by the many; we may get rule by the rich.

The coronavirus pandemic presents us with an immediate need for a response and it reminds us of the importance to invest so that we avoid preventable disasters in the future. At the moment, it’s all hands on deck for the emergency. But this is not what big philanthropy is built for. Or what it can sustain. The richest country in the world must step up to fund public health rather than relying on the richest people in the world to do it piecemeal.

Rob Reich is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and author of Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better. He is the faculty codirector of The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, which has received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mohit Mookim is a researcher at the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University.

Curiously, the co-author Rob Reich Of the article leads an organization funded by the Gates Foundation. Will Bill Gates listen to him?

Thomas Ultican has analyzed the billionaire funders behind the pro-Disruption, anti-democracy website “Education Post.”

The major funders are the usual members of the Billionaire Boys and Girls Club: Bloomberg, Waltons, Chan Zuckerberg, and Mrs. Jobs.

Please open and read his post.

If you thought the Disrupters might have softened their tone during the pandemic, like, as a show of decency, you will be disappointed. They are still attacking, vilifying, and mocking anyone daring to defend public education, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. It must really upset them that after all these years and billions spent on privatization, only 6% of American students enroll in charter schools.

For some reason, I am one of their prime targets. I suppose I should take it as a compliment.

I will never answer in kind.

They are swimming in cash, but what they cannot buy is civility, kindness, compassion, or dignity.

Washington State has experienced a long history of turmoil over charter schools.

It has held four state referenda over whether they should be allowed in the state. They are opposed by school boards, teachers’ unions, PTAs, and civil rights groups.

Bill Gates and his billionaire clique really wanted the state to have charter schools. So in 2012, they amassed a war chest and outspent the parents, teacher’s, and civil rights groups by a ratio of 17-1. The referendum passed by 1%.

Then the state’s highest court declared that charter schools are not public schools and can’t draw from the public school fund, because they don’t have elected school boards.

Next step, Gates and his friends spend big money to defeat the state court judges that opposed charter schools, but the justices won anyway.

So Gates’ surrogates go to the legislature and seek to get lottery money to support the charters that Bill wants so badly. Eager to please one of the state’s richest people (Bezos is the richest), the legislature dedicates the lottery to Bill’s charters.

After a few years, Gates commissions a CREDO evaluation of his charters, and CREDO says they don’t get different results than the state’s public schools.

Meanwhile, some of the charters close because of low enrollment.

But undaunted, Bill Gates presses forward.

Last week, Governor Jay Inslee signed bipartisan legislation to make sure that the Washington State Charter School Association could hire an e ecutive director and other staff.

Questions: since the charter schools serve no public purpose, why should the state pay for the employees of their lobby? Since the charters don’t get better results than public schools, why are they needed? Since the whole charter sector is tiny and ineffective, why doesn’t Gates pay for it himself?

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Wednesday that Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, sponsored to enhance administration capabilities at state charter schools.

House Bill 2853 will allow the Washington State Charter School Commission to hire an executive director and other employees.

The House and Senate approved the bill by large bipartisan majorities.

Harris did not attend Wednesday’s bill signing due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, but he put out a statement applauding the action.

“I’m very happy for our charter schools,” he said. “I believe every school in Washington, whether it’s public, private or chartered, deserves the opportunity to be successful. When our schools are successful, our kids are successful.”

Makes sense. The public must fund the charter lobbyists so that charter schools get more money. Don’t expect Gates to pay for his hobby, even though his net worth is more than $100 billion.

In this must-read article, Tim Schwab reports his investigative journalism into the charities favored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He asks, who benefits?

He begins by discussing a three-part Netflix documentary called Inside Bill’s Brain. The film was directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed Waiting for “Superman,” the anti-public school, pro-charter school documentary.

Schwab writes:

In the first episode, director Davis Guggenheim underlines Gates’s expansive intellect by interviewing Bernie Noe, described as a friend of Gates.

“That’s a gift, to read 150 pages an hour,” says Noe. “I’m going to say it’s 90 percent retention. Kind of extraordinary.”

Guggenheim doesn’t tell audiences that Noe is the principal of Lakeside School, a private institution to which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given $80 million. The filmmaker also doesn’t mention the extraordinary conflict of interest this presents: The Gateses used their charitable foundation to enrich the private school their children attend, which charges students $35,000 a year.

The documentary’s blind spots are all the more striking in light of the timing of its release, just as news was trickling out that Bill Gates met multiple times with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to discuss collaborating on charitable activities, from which Epstein stood to generate millions of dollars in management fees. Though the collaboration never materialized, it nonetheless illustrates the moral hazards surrounding the Gates Foundation’s $50 billion charitable enterprise, whose sprawling activities over the last two decades have been subject to remarkably little government oversight or public scrutiny.

While the efforts of fellow billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg to use his wealth to win the presidency foundered amid intense media criticism, Gates has proved there is a far easier path to political power, one that allows unelected billionaires to shape public policy in ways that almost always generate favorable headlines: charity….

Describing his approach by turns as “creative capitalism” and “catalytic philanthropy,” Gates oversaw a shift at his foundation to leverage “all the tools of capitalism” to “connect the promise of philanthropy with the power of private enterprise.”

The result has been a new model of charity in which the most direct beneficiaries are sometimes not the world’s poor but the world’s wealthiest, in which the goal is not to help the needy but to help the rich help the needy.

Through an investigation of more than 19,000 charitable grants the Gates Foundation has made over the last two decades, The Nation has uncovered close to $2 billion in tax-deductible charitable donations to private companies—including some of the largest businesses in the world, such as GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever, IBM, and NBC Universal Media—which are tasked with developing new drugs, improving sanitation in the developing world, developing financial products for Muslim consumers, and spreading the good news about this work.

The Gates Foundation even gave $2 million to Participant Media to promote Davis Guggenheim’s previous documentary film Waiting for Superman, which pushes one of the foundation’s signature charity efforts, charter schools—privately managed public schools. This charitable donation is a small part of the $250 million the foundation has given to media companies and other groups to influence the news.

“It’s been a quite unprecedented development, the amount that the Gates Foundation is gifting to corporations…. I find that flabbergasting, frankly,” says Linsey McGoey, a professor of sociology at the University of Essex and author of the book No Such Thing as a Free Gift. “They’ve created one of the most problematic precedents in the history of foundation giving by essentially opening the door for corporations to see themselves as deserving charity claimants at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high.”

McGoey’s research has anecdotally highlighted charitable grants the Gates Foundation has made to private companies, such as a $19 million donation to a Mastercard affiliate in 2014 to “increase usage of digital financial products by poor adults” in Kenya. The credit card giant had already articulated its keen business interest in cultivating new clients from the developing world’s 2.5 billion unbanked people, McGoey says, so why did it need a wealthy philanthropist to subsidize its work? And why are Bill and Melinda Gates getting a tax break for this donation?

As I wrote, this article is a must-read.

If you have an hour to spare, you might enjoy this no-holds-barred interview by Leonard Lopate, asking questions of me about SLAYING GOLIATH.

Audrey Watters asks the question that we should all be asking: is our democracy for sale to the candidate with the most billions? 

Apparently our schools sold out years ago when money was dabbled before them.

People who take money from that powerful education foundation — you know the one, the one that turns 20 years old this year — always insist to me that they’ve never been compelled to change their policies or practices. Of course, it doesn’t have to coerce its grantees to say and do things. People self-censor. They shape their initiatives to suit the foundation’s philosophy and its goals. They value the things the foundation says it values; they measure the way the foundation says it measures. Because if they rely on the foundation for funding, they know to fall in line. They needn’t be told. That’s how the power of philanthropy works. It sets the agenda. Personalized learning. The Common Core. Charter schools. Measures of Effective Teaching. It didn’t push for these ideas because that’s what people wanted. It helped convince politicians that these were the ideas that education needed. That is to say, education policy has not been shaped by democratic forces as much as it has been by philanthropic ones — by the billionaires who wield immense political power through their “charity.”

Actually, I don’t blame schools—few of whom had a say in decisions to follow the Gates money trail—so much as I blame the policy elites, who fell in love with the idea of sitting at the feet of billionaires and following their commands. The billionaires didn’t know what they were doing, but they were so confident in the virtues of testing, accountability, competition, choice. Who could resist?

Discounting for the rhetoric and hyperbole, it is worth reading Bill and Melinda Gates’ letter about what they do and why they do it.

They claim that Deborah Meier was one of their primary inspirations for their work in education, but knowing Debby Meier, I doubt that they read her book The Power of Their Ideas or that they understood what she was saying.

Both of us had the chance to attend excellent schools, and we know how many doors that opened for us. We also know that millions of Americans, especially low-income students and students of color, don’t have that same opportunity.

Experts, of course, have a much more rigorous vocabulary to describe this situation. In 2001, I met an educator named Deborah Meier who had a big impact on me. Her book The Power of Their Ideas helped me understand why public schools are not only an important equalizer but the engine of a thriving democracy. A democracy requires equal participation from everyone, she writes. That means when our public schools fail to prepare students to fully participate in public life, they fail our country, too.

I think about that a lot. It really helps drive home the stakes of this work for me.

If you’d asked us 20 years ago, we would have guessed that global health would be our foundation’s riskiest work, and our U.S. education work would be our surest bet. In fact, it has turned out just the opposite.

Deborah Meier believes in democracy. She believes that democracy should be the norm inside schools and outside schools. She does not believe that billionaires should fund a national standardized curriculum and pay to impose it on everyone.

The Gates’ should invest more in global health, where help is desperately needed, and stop imposing standardized curriculum, standardized technology, and and standardized testing on everyone.

They truly  don’t understand Deborah Meier.

Laura Chapman writes:

“EdReports, an independent curriculum review nonprofit, rates curriculum on three gateways: Text Quality, Building Knowledge, and Usability. Amplify CKLA earned a green rating in all three.”

This should not be regarded as a trustworthy endorsement. Here is Why. Recall that the Common Core State (sic) Standards were first marketed as if they were not intended to be about curriculum (but they were), because the owners of the CCSS soon offered up “publisher’s criteria” for curriculum materials (2011). Those criteria morphed into a system for reviewing curricula, based on absolute compliance with the CCSS, including grade-by grade alignments. In 2013, the initial criteria for reviewing curriculum materials for compliance with the CCSS were called “drop dead” (meaning comply with these criteria or do not waste the time of reviewers). A year later, the language was softened to the idea that materials had to meet “gateway” criteria (2014), but with the same meaning,—comply or else the reviewers will not bother to look at anything else.

By 2015, the promoters of the CCSS had set up a non-profit called EdReports.org to function in the capacity of a consumer-reports of newly published math and ELA materials. The purpose was to rate publications that claimed to be in compliance with the CCSS.

EdReports is said to be the result of a meeting at the Annenberg estate of “the nation’s leading minds in math, science, K-12 and higher education.” I have not been able to find a list of participants in that meeting or the sponsors, but in 2014 professionals in branding and communications were hired to promote EdReports. You can see the strategy and their pride in getting coverage in national news, http://www.widmeyer.com/work/edreports-org.htmlincluding from Peter Greene at http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/search?q=EdReports

In August 2015 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $1,499,988 to EdReports for operating support followed in 2016 with $6,674,956 for operating support. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gave EdReports.org $1.5 million in 2015 and $2 million in 2016.

Ed Reports.org is also funded by Broadcom Corporation (Board member from Broadcom is with EdReports), the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Overdeck Family Foundation, the Samuel Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and the Stuart Foundation.

You can find more about the quest for absolute continuity from the writing of the CCSS, largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to current efforts to impose “approved curriculum materials” for any state that has adopted the CCSS… https://www.edreports.org/about/index.html

EdReports is a Gates funded review process initially marketed to ensure that “approved” curriculum materials were in compliance with the common core. Any curriculum materials that did not pass muster with three gateway “drop dead criteria” would not be subjected to further review.

Amplify does not want you to know the history of this phony system of rating materials. Bob Shepard has offered another excellent history of this absurdly wrong effort to standardize ELA curriculum.

I see that Margaret Spellings, former Secretary of Education, has found a position at Amplify. She also serves on the board of Gates’ relatively new lobby shop. She is not competent to make judgments about education, but that seems to qualify her to be a crony of the disrupters who will do almost anything to please a billionaire.

Laura Chapman, intrepid researcher, reports on Bill  Gates’ next adventure in education.

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Gates is not finished with meddling in public education. Far from it. In case you missed it, here is the new twist on how he will be spending money.

In June of 2019, Alex Gangitano of The Hill reported “Bill and Melinda Gates launch lobbying shop.” The new Gates Policy initiative will lobby for the same issues as the foundation, including “ US education and outcomes for black, Latino and rural students specifically.”

This will be 501(c)(4) initiative led by the current director of the Gates Foundation, Rob Nabors, who was White House director of legislative affairs for President Obama. According to Nabors, “the group” hopes to avoid giving to political groups, but will focus “almost exclusively on legislative outcomes and the lobbying effort.” According to Nabors, they hope to “accelerate outcomes” without getting too “wrapped up into broader political types of issues.” “They are interested in learning what works and what doesn’t work.” Nabors said the lobby shop will be using data the Gates foundation has collected from programs it has funded.

Organizations designated as 501 (c) (4) are supposed to promote “social welfare” and may directly engage in some political activities. For details on the limits and advantages of the Gates 501(c)(4) tax structure, see https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/other-non-profits/life-cycle-of-a-social-welfare-organization.

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post noted that Gates has a long history of influencing legislation without having a lobby shop. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/06/19/bill-melinda-gates-have-spent-billions-drive-their-agenda-education-other-issues-now-they-have-created-lobbying-group-push-even-more/#comments-wrapper

And there is ample evidence that Gates has failed with most of his education projects (from small high schools, to the Common Core, to identifying “effective” teachers) with many of these failed ventures the result of placing his foundation staff in the US Department of Education, and vice versa.

Gates has launched a new method of trying to have his way. So far, there is very little news about this lobby shop dubbed the Policy Initiative. Nicholas Tampio, who has a higher education blog, has some ideas about Gates lobby shop, timing of the announcement, and why the initial focus may well be on post-secondary education. Tampio thinks the announcement of the lobby shop (in April) and a very low profile since then makes sense because Gates wants Congress to pass legislation that will do a triage on public university programs. See more of his reasoning at https://www.higheredjobs.com/articles/articleDisplay.cfm?ID=1988

I think Tampio is right about timing and initial focus. Gates has been pushing for legislation that will do a triage on publicly funded postsecondary programs, including four-year and graduate degree programs. He wants to see programs defunded, whither, and die if they produce a poor return on investment for students who complete them (or don’t, or take too long to complete them).

In May 2019, Gates put together a “Postsecondary Value Commission” whose charge is “to define the value of postsecondary education in the US.” This 30-member commission includes Dr. Mark Schneider, Director of the Institute of Education Sciences USDE who was commissioner of the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and now has oversight of NCES. All members of the Commission are DC insiders or academics who know perfectly well that they will be tweaking recommendations and data points already in use or easy to get. The Commission’s work will be completed in June 2020. The efforts of the Commission will produce rankings of best economic value degrees and credentials. https://www.postsecondaryvalue.org/members/

This Postsecondary Value Commission is set up to push years of Gates-funded policy work, especially “A Blueprint for Better Information: Recommendations for a Federal Postsecondary Student-Level Data Network (2017). This is a summary of Gates-funded work since 2015, work that included 11 commissioned policy papers justifying specific “metrics” (p. 10) for tracking student’s personally identifiable information (PII).

Data attached to PII are essential for linking progress from high school into postsecondary programs, completion of those programs, and ultimately to calculations of economic returns. Economic returns are tracked through IRS data, financial aid, loans and loan repayment rates, and measures of cost-effectiveness of online programs with “personalized” instruction versus course credits and seat time. http://www.ihep.org/research/publications/blueprint-better-information-recommendations-federal-postsecondary-student

Specifically, the new Gates lobby shop may be able to influence the “College Transparency Act,” (S.800) co-sponsored by Elizabeth Warren and now in committee. Among other provisions, S.800 gives the Commissioner of National Center for Education Statistics extraordinary power to use databases that include student’s personally identifiable information (PII). The Act is rationalized as necessary to address the student loan crisis. It does nothing about that but S.800 does empower the Commissioner of NCES to appoint an “advisory committee” to oversee implementation of the College Transparency Act.

I am confident that Gates would like to help populate that “advisory committee.” Moreover, if S. 800 passes, I am confident he would love to introduce amendments that would permanently allow federal agencies to use PII, cradle to career.

Gates yearns for his free use of PII for linking data on education–conditions, “Interventions,” and outcomes of interventions–from infancy to workplace.

He is a data guy. He thinks data should be the ONLY basis for judgments and policy formation. His ambition is far greater than his wisdom. He thinks he can and must “accelerate” change in education and his other ventures, he hopes to move fast and if he break things, he has already said that he will try something else.

The New York State Board of Regents received a grant of $100,000 from the Gates Foundation to hire a consultant to evaluate its testing illness. The Regents hired Achieve, an organization devoted to standardized testing and it’s proliferation. In addition, Achieve was deeply involved in the development of the Common Core.

After hearing outrage from constituents, the Regents broke ties with Achieve and replaced them with California-based consultant WestEd.