Archives for category: Philanthropy

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?

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.

As every reader of this blog knows, Mercedes Schneider is a relentless, dogged, and accurate researcher. She has the skills to dig through IRS reports and other online data that connect the dots and reveal how big money and Dark Money are controlling organizations and elections, thus endangering our democracy. In addition to teaching high school English in Louisiana, she has a doctorate in research methods and statistics. She’s good at taking a complicated subject and teaching it.

In 2018, Mercedes was invited to do a workshop at the annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Indianapolis with Andrea Gabor and Darcie Cimarusti about digging for data. The session was packed.

So many people wanted to learn more that Mercedes decided to write a book sharing her knowledge.

This is the book, published by Garn Press.

Mercedes announced the book.

My latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, is now available for purchase on Amazon.

Garn Press will have the book available for purchase on March 03, 2020.

About the book:

In A Practical Guide to Digital Research, Schneider draws on her years of experience as an educational researcher to offer an easy-to-read, easy-to-digest, concise tutorial for equipping both novice and more experienced researchers in navigating numerous research sources. These include nonprofit tax form search engines, newspaper archives, social media sites, internet archives, campaign filings/ethics disclosures, teaching credential search engines, and legal filings. Also covered are tips on conducting both email and in-person interviews, filing public records requests, and conducting pointed, fruitful Google searches.This powerful, practical text is built upon a foundation of actual examples from Schneider’s own research in education—examples that she dissects and explains as a means of teaching her readers how to effectively make these valuable lessons their own. Though Schneider’s own research is chiefly in the education reform arena, the resources, skills and techniques offered in A Practical Guide to Digital Research transcend any single research field and are indispensable for confronting a variety of research queries. Useful as a classroom text or for independent research study, the book provides foundational learning for those new to research investigation as well as surprising, valuable lessons for more experienced researchers challenging themselves to learn even more.

For those interested, Amazon allows readers to view the book, including its table of contents.

The the idea for this book stems from a presentation I participated in with colleagues Andres Gabor and Darcie Cimarusti on tracking the funding related to the promotion of market-based education reform titled, “Where Did All This Money Come From??: Locating and Following the Dark Money Trail” at the 2018 Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Indianapolis.

I know you will love this book. I predict that Bill Gates, John Arnold, Betsy DeVos and Charles Koch will not.

And a reminder: there are still a few openings at the 2020 annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Philadelphia on March 28-29. It will be at the Doubletree Hilton.It is a great opportunity to meet your allies from a rossthe nation. Please register now!

Christina Samuels of Education Week reports that philanthropists continue to pour a large percentage of their donations into education, but are losing interest in K-12 due to the poor record of their efforts to “reform” the schools. 

ironically, this is good news because the philanthropic money was used to impose “reforms” that disrupted schools, ranked students based on their test scores, and demoralized teachers.

Schools that serve the neediest children definitely need more money but not the kind that is tied to test scores, stigmatizing students and teachers, or the kind that funds charter schools to drain resources from public schools, leaving them with less money to educate the neediest children.

Samuels reports that a growing number of grant makers to early childhood education are looking to help children before they start school, and giving money to issues such as “education and mental health, education and criminal justice, education and the arts.”

In 2010, I visited Denver and met with about 60 of the city’s civic leaders. I was supposed to debate State Senator Michael Johnston, the TFA wunderkind in the legislature, who arrived the minute I finished speaking, never hearing my critique of test-based “reform.” Johnston proceeded to sing the praises of his legislation to introduce exactly what I denounced and proclaimed that judging teachers, principals, and schools by test scores would produce “great teachers, great principals, and great schools.” The philanthropists bought these promises hook, line, and sinker.

They were false promises and a total failure. Now, as this article shows, philanthropists in Denver realize they made a huge mistake. Good intentions, wrong solutions.

Samuels interviewed Celine Coggins, the executive director of Grantmakers in Education, who said,

What we saw in our recent study was that members were more thinking about the whole learner and moving away from just thinking about the academic standards,” she said. Working outside the boundaries of the K-12 system is seen as a way to have more impact, as well as more freedom from governmental controls.

The Donnell-Kay Foundation, created to improve public education in Colorado, is an example of a charitable organization that is moving away from trying to influence education at the K-12 level, said Tony Lewis. Once known as the executive director of the Denver-based foundation, Davis said he eliminated staff titles about a year ago, to create a more egalitarian structure in the organization.

“Over the past five or six years, we’ve gotten frustrated with the lack of progress in improvement in the K-12 system,” Lewis said. “We’ve tried hard, and our partners have tried hard and everyone is still trying hard. The results have been disappointing at best. That’s a Colorado story and it’s a national story.”

Lewis said the organization has pulled back from areas such as school performance frameworks, district accountability, and “turnaround schools” because the gains have been minimal. The organization is also less involved in supporting new charter schools and in early-childhood education than it was several years ago.

Instead, Donnell-Kay is now taking a closer look at the out-of-school space, including afterschool and summertime. That’s where children spend most of their time, he said.

“We keep layering more and more work on schools, reading, math, STEM, nutrition, mental health,” Lewis said. “I don’t think loading more onto the school day is actually the answer any more.”

But, he continued, “What if you really intentionally maximize the time in the out-of-school space? You can make a huge difference in both academics and in life skills.”

Next question: Will Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, and the other billionaire funders of disruptive reforms get the message?

I just opened my email and discovered this brilliant post by Audrey Watters, whose critical voice on EdTech is indispensable.

Watters lists the 100 biggest EdTech debacles of the past decade, and seeing them all in one place is astonishing.

What strikes me is the combination of unadulterated arrogance (i.e., chutzpah), coupled with repeated failures.

What is also impressive are the number of entries that were hailed by the media or by assorted journalists, then slipped quietly down the drain, without impairing the reputation of the huckster who took the money and ran.

Again and again, we encounter EdTech start-ups and innovations that are greeted with wild acclaim and hype, but whose collapse is ignored as the parade moves on to the next overpromised miracle technology.

Whatever happened to the promise that half of all courses in school would be taught online by this year (false) or that most colleges and universities would die because of the rise of the MOOC (false)? Why do virtual charter schools make money even though they have horrible outcomes for students (lies, lies, lies)?

This post is stuffed with flash-in-the-pan technological disruptions that planned to “revolutionize” education, from K-12 through higher education but then tanked.

Please read it. Share it with your friends and colleagues.

Lessons: Learn humility. Believe in the power of human beings, not machines designed to replace them. Don’t let them sell you stuff designed to control the brains, emotions, and social development of students. Be wary. Be skeptical. Protect your privacy and the privacy of children.

Protect your intellectual freedom.

Read Audrey Watters.

 

 

 

 

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights attorney who writes frequently for the Stamford (CT) Advocate.

In this article, she takes issue with a public-private partnership that fails to address the state’s woefully School finance system.

Ray Dalio, a billionaire who wants to do good, has created a partnership with the state government that will operate outside public scrutiny. Dalio and the state will each contribute $100 million and raise another $100 million. This amount, she writes,  will barely scratch the surface of the state’s neediest children and schools.

Controversially, the Partnership insists on being exempt from Connecticut transparency and ethics rules. Supporters maintain that “innovation” is required to solve entrenched problems like poverty and struggling public schools, and addressing these sensitive issues can only be done in private.

When it comes to public education, the issues have already been addressed in a public forum- the CCJEF trial. The trial judge made thousands of public findings of fact in his 2016 decision in Connecticut’s school funding case, all based on evidence presented during the months-long public trial.

Among his findings are that Connecticut’s poorest districts have significantly lower levels of children who attend high quality preschool, and that preschool provides significant lasting benefits, particularly for poor children, such as: reduced grade repetition and special education identification rates, decreased behavioral problems, higher graduation and employment rates, higher lifetime earnings, reductions in involvement with the criminal justice system, reductions in the probability of being on welfare, and improved health measures.

The evidence at trial also proved that, despite higher need, Connecticut’s poorest districts could not afford an adequate supply of guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, reading interventionists, special education teachers, and teachers and services for bilingual students. The lack of these essential services prevented these districts from successfully serving their neediest children. Districts often had to spend their Alliance District money, funds intended to be “extra,” to try to pay for at least some of these basic services and staff; and had to divert money intended for general education to cover growing special education costs.

This persuasive public evidence came from people who work in and belong to the communities shut out of the secretive Partnership for Connecticut leadership. They are the ones with the knowledge of what these communities lack and need.

The trial court findings paint a picture of districts in triage mode, trying to plug gaping holes caused by inadequate state education funding.

Unfortunately the same judge who reached these findings did not order the state to remedy the injustice, which only the state can do, not a public-private philanthropy operating behind closed doors.

 

Readers of this blog are well aware of my views. When I have a chance to share them with others who are not readers, I grab that opportunity.

I was recently interviewed by Julia Travers of “Philanthropy Women.”

This is the interview.

Investor Robert F. Smith was invited to give the commencement address at Morehouse College, an all-male historically black college in Atlanta. Smith is the wealthiest black man in America, with a fortune estimated at $4-5 billion.

Smith began his speech by talking about his good fortune, having been bused to an integrated public school in Denver. 

Smith described being bused to a high-performing, predominantly white school across town in Denver, where he grew up. He said he’ll never forget climbing onto bus No. 13 to Carson Elementary.

“Those five years drastically changed the trajectory of my life,” he said. “The teachers at Carson were extraordinary. They embraced me and challenged me to think critically and start to move toward my full potential. I, in turn, came to realize at a young age that the white kids and the black kids, the Jewish kids and the one Asian kid were all pretty much the same.”

After talking about how he achieved success, he dropped his prepared remarks and announced that he was paying all the student debt of the class of 2019, some 400 young men. The students were stunned, then broke into cheers and tears, along with their families.

This was a beautiful act of genuine philanthropy. Mr. Smith is not controlling anyone’s life, he is giving without strings or conditions. I know many readers will react by saying that higher education should be tuition-free, and I agree. But it is not. So for now, I say, thank you for this generous and kind act, Mr. Robert F. Smith.

Since the Washington Post is behind a paywall, here are other sites on which to read this heart-warming story, including a video clip.

See here, here, here.

Something tells me Robert F. Smith will have many invitations to give commencement addresses in years to come.

 

 

The billionaires understand the growing rage caused by inequality on an unprecedented scale. They worry that the rage might be directed at them. This far, it has been captured by rightwing populists like Trump, whose tax policies deepen the crisis of inequality by transferring more wealth to the one tenth of the one percent.

Jacobin explains that multibillionaires like Bill Gates are trying to buy time through their philanthropy and “the giving pledge,” which commits them to give away a big chunk of their billions when they die. Unfortunately, or fortunately for them, their capital is so vast that they make more money than they give away, without working. At a certain point, capital multiplies just by sitting in stocks and bonds.

Anand Girihadaras hit a nerve in his book Winners Take All, where he described the elite Charade of pretending to save the world through philanthropy, while building mechanisms to control the lives of others.

Charter schools are a perfect example of elite philanthropy that offers a way to “save poor children” while destroying democratically controlled institutions and transferring control to private boards directed by financiers. The parents of the children being “saved” will never have a voice in the education of their children, will never meet face to face with a board member, will never gain admission to a board meeting, and-if they complain too much-will be told to take their child and go elsewhere.

 

Mercedes Schneider writes here about a peculiar development that is percolating among “reformer” groups: Bring back racial segregation!

While civil rights groups are concerned about the alarming increase in racial segregation in recent years, about the retreat of federal courts from enforcing desegregation decrees, and about the role of “school choice” in promoting segregation, a few leading figures in the “Reform” movement have decided to embrace segregation.

At a recent convening of Global Silicon Valley (GSV) at Arizona State University (ASU), “Reformers” offered a panel discussion titled: “No Struggle, No Progress: An Argument for a Return to Black Schools.”

The panel was moderated by school choice advocate Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform; its leadoff speaker was Howard Fuller, who has received millions of dollars from rightwing foundations to promote school choice among African Americans.

Schneider writes: The panel description reads like, “Since racial separation and hate crimes abound, let’s just go with it.”

School choice has predictably led to every kind of segregation–by race, religion, ethnicity, and social class, not only in the U.S., but in other nations that have adopted school choice.

Fuller’s organization, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, was the recipient of grants from the pro-voucher, rightwing Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation. BAEO was a good gig while it lasted–its revenues ranged from $2 million to $8.5 million a year. Fuller and BAEO carried the gospel of school choice to black communities, especially in the South. BAEO closed its doors at the end of 2017; the rich white philanthropists must have decided to shift their resources elsewhere.

In 2011, Schneider points out, Fuller won an award established in John Walton’s name to honor “champions of school choice,” presented at the national convention of Betsy DeVos’s American Federation for Children.

Rucker Johnson of Berkeley has written about the substantial and lasting advantages conferred by attending integrated schools. His latest book, Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works, co-authored by journalist Alexander Nazaryan, explains why school integration was a great success, and why we must not abandon it.

I would pay to watch a debate between Howard Fuller, the well-funded advocate of a return to segregation, and Rucker Johnson, whose research demonstrates the value of school integration.

Fuller has become the black voice of separatism and segregation, a line that seems to resonate with wealthy white conservatives and philanthropists like Betsy DeVos, the Bradley Foundation, and the Waltons.

Powerful rightwing foundations like Bradley and Walton generously funded Fuller’s advocacy.

Did he use them or did they use him?