Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

In 1994, the Clinton administration started a small federal program and funded it with $4.5 million to help launch new charter schools. At the time, charter schools were a new idea, and there were not many of them. The first charter school had opened in Minnesota in 1991, and six states passed laws authorizing charters in 1992. In 1994, the idea was too new to have produced results or research. So Congress allocated a measly $4.5 million.

In the 26 years since the federal Charter Schools Program started, the charter idea has burgeoned into an industry with state charter school associations, lobbyists in D.C. and in state capitols, and support from numerous foundations, billionaires, corporations, and Wall Street. There is considerable research about charters as well as controversy surrounding their methods of selecting and retaining or excluding students. Charters now enroll 6% of the nation’s students.

Two things are clear:

1. The charter sector today is very well funded by billionaire patrons such as the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe abroad Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and Netflix founder Reed Hastings. It has no need of federal funding.

2. Some charters get high test scores (and are accused of skimming to get the “best” students), some get the worst scores in their states, and most get scores about the same as public schools with similar demographics. In the one all-charter district in the nation, New Orleans, about half the schools are rated D or F by the state. Although the charter industry sings their praises, it’s clear that charters have no secret sauce to lift up every child.

Yet despite the fact that charters have a huge number of financial angels with very deep pockets, despite the fact that they do not solve the deep-seated problems of American education, despite their spotty academic record, funding for the Federal Charter Schools Program has grown to $440 million per year.

Under Betsy DeVos, the CSP has become her personal slush fund to help The expansion of large corporate charter chains, like KIPP and IDEA. The original idea that the federal funds would launch entrepreneurial start-ups is long forgotten.

About two weeks ago, DeVos released the latest CSP funds and again favored the big corporate charter chains, which have many millions in reserve and long lists of billionaire patrons.

DeVos handed out the first $200 million to her favorite chain, IDEA, which has no financial need. IDEA won $72 million, having previously received more than $200 million from DeVos. IDEA, you may recall, is known for its lavish spending. Its board approved the lease of a private jet for nearly $2 million a year, but had to cancel the lease because of adverse publicity in Texas, where the chain is based. Its CEO hired a private jet to take him to meet with DeVos in Florida; he was the only passenger. The chain’s executives,lacking their own jet, are allowed to fly first class with their families, not exactly like public school employees on official travel.

The second biggest winner was Mater Academy, which won $57 million. It is affiliated with the for-profit (and very rich) Florida for-profit chain Academica.

The Network for Public Education published two reports about the CSP in 2019, documenting that the program is shot through with waste, fraud, and abuse. About 40% of the charters funded by CSP either never opened or closed not long after opening. The loss of federal funds was $1 billion. The first report—Asleep at the Wheel— is here. The second report—Still Asleep at the Wheel—is here.

Tom Ultican reviewed the two NPE reports and recounted Betsy DeVos’s unsurprising hostile response to them. Why would she relinquish control over $440 million, which helps corporate chains that divert money from public schools and advances DeVos’s long-term goal of wrecking the foundations of public education?

It is ironic that the Trump administration in its now forgotten budget for the coming year proposed to eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program by folding it and 28 other federal programs into a bloc grant to the states. At the same time, Trump and DeVos proposed The creation of a multi-billion dollar voucher program. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives made clear that these proposals were Dead on Arrival. Nonetheless, the charter lobbyists were shocked to discover that charter schools are just a stepping-stone to vouchers for DeVos.

Bill Gates went on Trevor Noah’s “The Faily Show” to announce that he would fund the building of several factories to produce vaccines for the coronavirus. He expects that only two will be successful, which means he will “waste” a few billion dollars. But since he is worth about $110 billion, this is no big loss.

This is great news, given the incompetence of the Trump administration, which expects every state to take care of its own problems.

At last, Gates is spending his billions for a worthy cause!

He should definitely concentrate his charity on global health.

Thanks, Bill!

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.