The Gates Foundation and "Education Advocacy Groups"

Linda Shaw's final article in the Seattle Times was printed this morning.   She writes about the various "education advocacy groups" that are heavily funded by Gates including League of Education Voters, the Partnership for Learning and Stand for Children.  From her article:

Here at home, as well as nationally, the Seattle-based foundation is a powerful player in public education. It underwrites groups pushing for change, bankrolls projects and helps out-of-state organizations establish themselves here.

With that backing, Washington state now has a broader, stronger group of voices clamoring to bring much of the national education reform agenda here.

Some consider that progress, saying the foundation is helping bring Washington out of the backwater when it comes to education policy.

But others disagree, saying the foundation's deep pockets buy more influence than it deserves.
 Both Sue Peters and I are quoted.  There's also a quote from the foundation:

The foundation says that while it's not shy about sharing what it thinks needs to be done, it doesn't claim to have all the answers.

The goal, said David Bley, director of the foundation's Pacific Northwest programs, is "to create more educational opportunities for kids. Period."

They may not have all the answers but yes, I think they believe they have the right answers.

There is also this:

Bley calls it a bottom-up approach — one in which the foundation has a seat at the table, but doesn't direct what happens.

Very funny and okay, true.  I'm sure they don't direct everything but I'm pretty sure they make their wishes known.

The article calls out what the Gates Foundation has done for SPS:

And a few years ago, it gave Seattle Public Schools $6.9 million, much of it to help the district make better use of data.

Yes, and we all know how well that has worked out.

From LEV:

"What Gates and others are trying to do is strengthen community and give kids the future they need," said Lisa Macfarlane of the League of Education Voters.

I categorically disagree.  I do not believe the Gates Foundation has strengthen community in the Puget Sound region around the topic of education.   I don't think they want to hear what communities and families would REALLY like to have help with in getting better academic outcomes for their children.

TFA was mentioned:

Gates also gave $2.5 million to help Teach for America open shop in Washington state. While the foundation doesn't consider that advocacy, critics see it as another ill-advised attempt to bring the national education reform agenda to Washington state.

Oh, that's not advocacy.  What is it?  Charity for the educational non-profit that has the most money of any education group in the country?

An interesting last quote from Bree Dusseault's husband:

Chris Eide, a former Seattle teacher, said some board members of his newly formed group, Teachers United, worried they would be labeled corporate sellouts.

They ultimately decided to apply, he said, because they didn't think the foundation would try to control what they do. And besides, he said, they knew they wouldn't be alone.

"Everybody," he said, "is getting money from the Gates Foundation."

There are two things to say to those statements.

One, yes, everyone IS getting money from Gates because there is so little money out there for non-profits. Gates may not control all that they do but boy, you sure don't bite the hand that feeds you so mum's the word on any criticism about the Foundation.  (Also, Mr. Eide was a very gung-ho teacher at Mercer so I'm surprised to see the word "former."

Also, Gates created his own teachers group - Teach Plus.  This from a front-page NY Times article on the Foundation:

Mr. Hess, a frequent blogger on education whose institute received $500,000 from the Gates foundation in 2009 “to influence the national education debates,” acknowledged that he and others sometimes felt constrained. “As researchers, we have a reasonable self-preservation instinct,” he said. “There can be an exquisite carefulness about how we’re going to say anything that could reflect badly on a foundation.” 

The foundation paid a New York philanthropic advisory firm $3.5 million “to mount and support public education and advocacy campaigns.” It also paid a string of universities to support pieces of the Gates agenda.

In 2009, the foundation spent $3.5 million creating an advocacy group to buttress its $290 million investment in programs to increase teacher effectiveness in four areas of the country: Tampa, Pittsburgh, Memphis and Los Angeles. 

A document describing plans for the group, posted on a Washington Post blog in March, said it would mobilize local advocates, “establish strong ties to local journalists” and should “go toe to toe” with union officials in explaining contracts and state laws to the public. 

But to avoid being labeled a “tool of the foundation,” the document said the group should “maintain a low public profile.” 

Oh Bill, what a tangled web we weave.

Boy I wish I could sit down and talk with this guy.

Update:   Here's a link to The Answer Sheet, an education blog at the Washington Post about who gets the most education dollars.   

There had been a study that showed from 2000-2008, philanthropists had given away $684 million to ed reform organizations.

The analysis, the first comprehensive examination of philanthropy activity in this area, showed that the biggest chunk of the money — 38 percent — went to teacher recruitment, while 22 percent was spent on professional development, 14 percent on teacher preparation and less than 10 percent for everything else.

Teach for America, the nonprofit organization that recruits newly graduated college students to commit to teach for two years in high-needs schools, was tops on the list of recipients, with $213,444,431, or 31 percent of the total. This doesn’t include at least $150 million it received from foundations and the U.S. government in the past year, which is outside the scope of the report.


Kathy said…
I didn't realize Stand for Children gave $150K to push a $19M teacher contract which lacked an adequate funding stream.

So, where did this contract get us?

This year the state cut $4M from teacher salaries. Seattle Times reports union will be asked to furlough one teacher prep day and eliminate another half day of instructions.

Doesn't ALL the research show our kids need to be in school longer?

So much for these advocacy groups.

Keep in mind..the state is talking about mid-year cuts. There isn't an end to the recession for atleast another 2 years.

ALL these organizations are SO proud. Let's just remember eliminations and RIF's such as elementary school counselors (BTW..the state DOES provide funding for counselors), re-entry specialists, drug and alcohol counselors and more.

Incumbents have put us on a non-sustainable course that will take dollars OUT of our classrooms.

This article SO proudly talks about $6.9M for data systems. Let's remember NOW these dollars are taken out of our classrooms. Don't forget- the district's depeartment of Research, Data and Assessment is funded at nearly $3M per year.

Time to vote out the incumbents which favored non-sustainable initiatives and data over direct student services.
There was a really great comment at the Seattle Times that I think needs to reprinted here by someone named Don Matt. (maybe it's one of you?)

"I go back-and-forth about my feelings towards Gates and his philanthropy in education. I cannot hide from the fact that, as you said, he is spending a tremendous amount of his own money trying to improve education - yes, I believe that his motives are genuine.

However, I also struggle because I believe that many of his ideas are just plain bad and, therefore, he spends a tremendous amount of money on things that harm education. It is hard to thank him for this.

Moreover, discussions are so very toxic any more. People (all all sides of discussions) have their minds made up regarding what needs to be done and, at all costs, will stick to their guns. Because views are so very divergent, discussions become arguments and the"winner" is not necessarily the person/group with the best idea but, rather, the one with the loudest voice (i.e. most money). Of course, as a result, those on the "losing" end of the argument will never by fully committed to decisions being made and will work to undermine it - spelling ultimate failure.

As long as our discussions take this approach, we will be mired in mediocrity. It is not until we, as a people, have the ability to see strengths in others' ideas and learn to work to incorporate those strengths into our own and, likewise, to recognize weaknesses in our own solutions, that we will really be able to solve the very complex problems that face us in education.

This is real voice on why many of these reforms aren't working. There is not the buy-in that they really need from parents and communities. Plans get made (sometimes without input or knowledge of those communities) and then get presented as what will save public education in their area.

Then, that fails and hey! here's another initiative to experiment on with your children.

What's interesting is sometimes we hear this "loudest" voice argument here. Only the cry is that it's the loudest parents, not necessarily the quiet majority. But I never hear a Board member worry about the voices from the Alliance or LEV or Gates. Their voices, soft or loud, are fine.

It's troubling that Gates and his foundation will brook no criticism and won't talk about their failures or why they decide what projects to do with. We're all supposed to assume they are super-smart people who know best.

Not me.
Anonymous said…

There are some great sentiments in the piece you quote.

Sadly, the REAL problems with the ideas of the de-formistas doesn't stem from an honest appraisal of the costs of different ideas, and the different permutations of priorities of those different ideas.

The REAL problems with the de-formista agenda is that they're lying about us being in Dan Evans and Betty Ford era of disagreement - an era which has been gone for over 30 years.

Listening to and compromising with people who are out to completely wreck community programs and community investment means less community investment, and it is less investment because we're being lied to about how crony privateers ripping us all off is ... ha ha ha ... accountable.

The performance of those who've spent decades defending the system leaves a lot to be desired. Sadly, they're hostile to, or grossly incompetent at, costing out ideas and making priorities of ideas - so the de-formistas just steal from the defenders playbook.

Probably 1 of the greatest problems with the ideas of Gates stems from a dynamic people who worked at Microsoft should be VERY aware of - Gates is surrounded by cutting edge toadies, synchophants and yes-people.

I'm more willing to believe that Gates is Gollum and not Gandalf, but, that is me.

Maureen said…
Linda Shaw's final article....

Is she retiring?
No, Linda has a one-year fellowship to Columbia University to research and write on...the Gates Foundation.
wseadawg said…
It's nice to know so many are so sanguine with the influx of private dollars into all sectors of public influence, politicians, newpapers, fake community organizations, and the like. And it's touching how so many behind Ed Reform make money the old fashioned way: They steal it.

Bill has allied himself with the hedge fund managers who run for-profit charters. For that alone, he deserves my disdain. And buying "research" that says what he wants it to say, creating fake consensus via groups like STAND, and on and on, is enough to call him out for what he has become: A Perpetrator of Fraud.

If he wants to help our students, help the people who teach them, don't demonize them like you did with Apple for so many years. Where are they compared to Microsoft these days? Hmmmm?

Braessae said…
Melissa -- thanks for posting that comment. Really good points. Now, what I can't figure out is if the author is right that both sides need to be willing to really hear the other side's points, and examine weaknesses in their own position -- what happens if/when only ONE side is willing to do so? Can any progress be made?

Because at this point, I can't honestly see that I see any willingness in the ed reform side to honestly assess problems in their position (though I can certainly find places in my OWN argument where unchallenged assumptions, biases, etc. leave me vulnerable to the points that Don Matt makes). If only ONE side becomes reasonable, does the discussion end up at a better place, or is that just seen as weakness and capitulation by the non-yielding side?
Anonymous said…
Don't miss the attaboy editorial in the Seattle Times today on the contributions of The Gates Foundation and The Paul Allen Foundation. The paper rightly credits the foundations for their largess in many areas that benefit Seattle. I have no problem with that. But I am very curious about 'why now' for the editorial. These ideas do not come out of thin air.

Skeptical, you call it atta-boy and I call it a big, wet kiss to Allen and Gates and their foundations.

Now, Monday morning, ANOTHER article on Gates Foundation work in the health arena.

I'm guessing Gates must have been feeling ignored by the Times. Three articles in a week?
wseadawg said…
Braessae: It is seen as weakness and capitulation by the non-yielding side. Always. Everywhere in our national discourse. Appeasement does not work. The only thing bullies understand is power, so, when you get your hands on it, you have to wield it with force. We don't live in a centrist world; we live in a pendulous world. This is something modern liberals and democrats do not understand, but conservatives understand extremely well. When you have the ball, you run with it, then play defense when it's the other sides turn. Ultimately, the middle is where people wind up. Because high-mindedness has ruled the day for the past 30 years, the powerful have squashed the middle class and only the wealthy and powerful get their way. Think about how may scholars and bureaucrats literally depend on Gates, et al., for their daily bread. It's about power, not reason.
John said…
Hi, John Cummings here. I am the other challenger to Peter Maier for the District 1 directorship. I answered a series of questions posed by Parents Across America- Seattle that were posted on the Seattle Education Blog. My answers cover much of what is being discussed here regarding Gates, charters, class size, Teach for America, the Board and the budget. My perspective on the issues and my proposals for the future are based upon 20+ years in the classroom, and they are not quite the same as the other candidates' ideas.

Please take a look, and also check out my blog:

or call/text me at 206 271 0949.

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