The Gates Foundation is Pimping Educational “Reform”

Education Ideas and Issues Philanthropy

1-1-bill-gatesNew Orleans Reading back newspapers on my return from Honduras as always are an education.   Seems to be some rich fellows out there in business and politics who think that they have a “do anything I want” card that will let them out of every jam in life.  They almost seem surprised that regular people would be shocked and awed by their wild and off beat antics.

Speaking of rich people, it’s hard not to think of Bill Gates, and given the rest of the headlines, I supposed I shouldn’t have been surprised that he and his foundation were all over the front page of the Times with revelations of how they are pimping out education reform by paying and planting talking heads, “advocates,” fake grassroots groups, and so-called experts to tilt the playing field while at the same time trying to throw some money out to the teachers’ unions and more traditional advocates like the NAACP just to cover their tracks.

One piece of the article by Sam Dillon was pretty clear:

“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.  Harvard, for instance, got $3.5 million to place ‘strategic data fellows’ who could act as ‘entrepreneurial change agents’ in school districts in Boston, Los Angeles and elsewhere.”

What in the heck is a “strategic data fellow?”  Is that something like a CIA agent planted on the foreign soil of a local USA school district?  What is an “entrepreneurial change agent?”  Is that a paid provocateur without a station manager back at the control desk in DC?

That’s not all of course when money is no object and Gates certainly has a gold plated “do anything I want” card!

  • Alliance for Excellent Education picked up $551K “to grow support for the common core standards initiative…”
  • The Fordham Institute got $959 K “to review common core materials and develop supportive materials.”  Dillon notes that the NYT swallowed the bait and quoted Fordham’s chief without revealing the fact that he was a paid spokesman.  I wondered if that grant was why a more progressive educational reform institute had lost support at Fordham?
  • The New Teacher Project financed by Gates produced a report asserting that teacher tests were too easy and graded on a soft curve, which helped a “string of Gates-backed nonprofit groups” to impact legislation in 20 states considering rewriting teacher evaluation tools.
  • Gates spent $2 M on a “social action” campaign focused on union bashing the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten by promoting the film “Waiting for Superman.”  Tell me that isn’t about as sleazy and underhanded as it gets?
  • They have more than a half-million to a front for Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, and Bush-brother for pretend advocacy for educational “reform” and a soft landing after his stint in Florida in office.
  • They spent $3.5 M to start an advocacy group to front for its almost $300M effort to tilt the fight against teachers in Tampa/St. Pete, Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Los Angeles.
  • They have paid things like “Teach Plus” to operate as grass-tips or “Astroturf” groups to front for them.

No doubt it goes on and on.

Is this fair?  Are they transparent?  Can there be a real dialogue when the riches are so unevenly distributed in only one direction?  In fact why is Gates not funding both sides of the debate, if they really are a foundation deserving of a tax exemption to study critical public policy and find real answers that would include both the public and the teaching professionals?

Sure seems like they are pimping out the whole process to me and making streetwalkers of a whole lot of folks that out to know better.