Rich People; Could They Please Leave Public Ed Alone?

Forbes has just come out with its annual list of the wealthiest people in the world. 
It was a record year for the richest people on earth, as the number of billionaires jumped 13% to 2,043 from 1,810 last year, the first time ever that Forbes has pinned down more than 2,000 ten-figure-fortunes. Their total net worth rose by 18% to $7.67 trillion, also a record. The change in the number of billionaires -- up 233 since the 2016 list -- was the biggest in the 31 years that Forbes has been tracking billionaires globally. 

Bill Gates is the number one richest for the fourth year in a row, and the richest person in the world for 18 out of the past 23 years. He has a fortune of $86 billion, up from $75 billion last year. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos had the best year of any person on the planet, adding $27.6 billion to his fortune; now worth $72.8 billion, he moved into the top three in the world for the first time, up from number five a year ago.

The U.S. continues to have more billionaires than any other nation, with a record 565, up from 540 a year ago.
You can only cross your fingers that all the new U.S. billionaires don't get it into their heads to go the way of Gates in terms of his "helping" public education.  

NPR had a good piece on a new book on philanthropy, The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age by David Callahan.
"We're seeing just an escalating ideological arms race as more money pours in from wealthy donors across the spectrum," says Callahan, who founded the news website Inside Philanthropy.

Callahan says this philanthropic money comes at a time when most Americans feel disenfranchised. "More and more public policy debates looks like Greek gods throwing lightning at each other, billionaires on the left and the right, as the rest of us watch from the sidelines," he says.
Now the students don't know this happening but the teachers sure do because they tend to be the end users of these new "innovative" ideas that come from on high.

Naturally, there's always more than one reason for their largess:
"If I give a donation to a politician, that's not tax deductible. If I give a donation to a Washington think tank that whispers in the ear of that politician, I can get a tax break for that," Callahan says. "The IRS makes few distinctions in what is tax-deductible giving, and I think that's a problem." 
Mr. Callahan lists several other ways the wealthy can influence public policy:
When people talk about the influence of money in politics, they often mean campaign donations. But wealthy philanthropists can influence policy in many other ways. Author David Callahan says they can do this by setting up a foundation to fund these things:

  • Think tanks
  • Academics who publish research to support a given opinion
  • Lawyers to pursue change through litigation
  • Activists to stage protests and pressure campaigns
  • Pop-up media blitzes
  • Creation of media outlets
  • Underwriting of books and magazines
  • Documentaries to persuade public opinion
In terms of sheer dollar amounts, it's unclear who gives more. But Callahan says right wing donors have been more effective when it comes to shaping economic and fiscal policy, bankrolling big think tanks in Washington that advocate for cutting the size of government. Those include The Heritage Foundation, which now plays a big role in the Trump administration.
In an effort to keep you current on new ed reform groups in Washington state (likely funded by Gates), here's a new one,  Convergence Center For Policy Relations in D.C., which, like others before it, has spin-off "initiatives."  Convergence says it started in 2013 but seems to be pushing for a higher profile.
At our first gathering, we opened by sharing what had brought us all together—our commitment to children. Hearing this shared commitment, we were able to effectively examine the education system.
Seriously? Of course, people who care about and work on public education care about the kids.  What an incredibly broad "commitment" with which to start an organization.

Their whole vision reads like edu-jargon.  Personalized, contextualized, socially embedded - sigh.  They're having a personalized learning "summit" this summer in San Francisco. 

In their FAQs, they say this (try not to laugh when you think of people at the Gates Foundation who probably wrote it):

Q. Why do we need to transform and not reform our education system?

A. For years and years, we’ve been investing time, resources, and money in fixing our education system, with only isolated successes that fail to reach the majority of kids. The public conversation on education has been filled with debates and arguments about who and what is to blame for this lack of success.
And whose fault is it that hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on all these initiatives?  
It is not until you look at the system itself, designed in the last century, that you begin to see that no one is to blame.
No one is to blame? But Gates himself blamed teachers.  Gates himself said that small high schools were the answer to change the system.  Talk about lack of accountability.
It’s time to free ourselves from the current constraints of standardization and transform our system.
Who single-handedly funded the building of Common Core which is truly standardization at its finest? Bill Gates.
Our current funders include:
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
  • Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, 
  • Jaquelin Hume Foundation, 
  • Nellie Mae Education Foundation, 
  • Oak Foundation, 
  • and individual donors
Here's their website.  Their spin-off is Education Reimagined which seems to be about so-called personalized learning.

Yes, I'm hard on these wealthy people because there has not been much valid, helpful or quantifiable positive, needle-moving change in public education.  Just a lot of churn.

Be watchful and be aware because it's your children they want to experiment on .


Anonymous said…
I am quite tired of all billionaires (on the Right and on the Left) and their constant meddling in my life. I am particularly tired of rich people who make their money doing one thing, assume they are brilliant, and further assume they can use this brilliance to take on something completely different and be as successful. It is clear to me that wealth (esp. wealth without humility) brings about a lot of "move fast and break things" mentality, without regard for the fact that the things being "disrupted" are our kids. All billionaires, please SHUT UP for a while...

- Tired
Queen Bee said…
All those rich people in the Middle Ages just started their own schools or became benefactors to talented artisans. Why can't our rich people do that now? They could be offering scholarships. Or founding their own schools.

Oprah started that school in South Africa. That's the kind of thing I mean. Although I notice she's also donated quite a bit to charter schools. Hmm.

Another Name said…
Here is the link:

"Seattle has a rich history of big giving, and Local Wonder listener Anne Martens wanted to know more. We sent KUOW's Marcie Sillman to report the story."

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