One Man’s Money: Bill Gates,
Education, and Common Core
Bill Gates wrote in USA Today on February 12, 2014: “we’re in the grip of mythology.” He claims that the “myths” surrounding Common Core standards are “harmful, because they can lead people to fight against the best solutions to our biggest problems.” Bill Gates is the chief funder — besides the federal government — and one of the most adamant proponents of Common Core standards. Questions to be asked are: “Best solutions according to whom?” and “Where is the proof?”
Gates’s USA Today article glosses over controversial aspects of Common Core and gives simplistic responses to troubling parts of the standards. Common Core was developed at the behest of two private Washington, D.C. lobbying organizations, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Gates doesn’t address concerns that Achieve, Inc., the group that the NGA and the CCSSO assigned to develop the standards, did not include educators or child development specialists; that development was done behind closed doors; that the standards adopted in most states of the nation were never piloted, anywhere, by anyone; and that the federal government requires personally identifiable student information from schools as an integral part of Common Core.
Life in a Wealthy, Progressive Family
Bill Gates is a successful man, if success is measured by computer genius and the ability to amass a fortune. But Gates is not an expert on and has no formal training in child development or education. Born William H. Gates III into a wealthy and prominent Seattle family, “Bill” attended an exclusive private school and enrolled at Harvard in the fall of 1973. He took a leave of absence during his junior year and never completed his college education.
Gates comes from a progressive, liberal family background. He told Bill Moyers in a 2003 interview:
When I was growing up, my parents were always involved in various volunteer things. My dad was head of Planned Parenthood. And it was very controversial to be involved with that. And so it’s fascinating. At the dinner table my parents [were] very good at sharing the things that they were doing. And almost treating us like adults. . . .
Speaking about “philanthropic things,” Gates told Moyers, “I have to say I got off the track when I started Microsoft.” (PBS.org, 5-9-2003) Largely due to family influence, Gates got back on track with philanthropy once his fortune was established.
Why $2.3 Billion, Bill?
Experts commonly agree that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted over $2 billion to Common Core development and implementation. Recent research by Jack Hassard, Professor Emeritus at Georgia State University, indicates that the Gateses have to date spent $2.3 billion on Common Core. (TruthInAmericanEducation.com, 3-18-14) The Gates Foundation is the nation’s richest charity. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported that in the previous ten years the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had “poured some $5 billion into education grants and scholarships.” (7-23-11)
Why did Bill Gates turn his attention to education? Why has he spent so much cash to force Common Core upon the nation? Questions and theories abound but answers do not. $2.3 billion is a large commitment and Gates is certainly not turning his back on Common Core now. He will continue to spend until his goals are achieved.
“Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives,” according to the foundation’s website. They “take on some tough challenges: extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries, and the failures of America’s education system.” They admit, “Some of the projects we fund will fail. We not only accept that, we expect it. . . .” (GatesFoundation.org)
Some say Gates is “a promoter of global sameness of education as defined by UNESCO and the United Nations.” (WhatIsCommonCore.wordpress.com, 3-28-13) Gates is certainly active within the United Nations and has expressed agreement with UN policies that many Americans oppose. Agenda 21 is a UN-sponsored action plan that promotes “sustainable development” and global governance at the expense of private properties, individual liberty, and national sovereignty. Some Common Core concepts align with Agenda 21’s education goals.
Whether Bill Gates is a globalist aligned with United Nations Agenda 21, a liberal do-gooder, or something in between, most agree that one unelected philanthropist wielding so much power is not the American way.
Gates’s First Education Failure
Gates has a poor education track record. Analysts say his first foray into influencing education was a failure. In 2003, the Gates Foundation decided that small high schools were the ticket. He funded programs to create and improve small and personalized high schools, each having around 400 students. The Gates Foundation gave “grants to more than 2,000 high schools — of which about 800 were existing schools attempting to create smaller schools within schools.” (Seattle Times, 11-5-2006)
Gates himself admitted in his 2009 Annual Letter that the Small Schools Project was unsuccessful. Gates wrote, “Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students’ achievement in any significant way.” He said that while some schools had higher attendance and graduation rates than peer schools, “we are trying to raise college-ready graduation rates, and in most cases, we fell short.” (GatesFoundation.org)
Melinda Gates told Business Week in 2006 that Small Schools Project “setbacks” didn’t mean they had “squandered the $1 billion the foundation has spent so far.” She continued, “If you want to equate being naïve with being inexperienced, then we were definitely naïve when we first started.” (Business Week, 6-25-2006)
Education blogger Mercedes Schneider states:
[T]he extraordinary [eventual] $2 billion initiative — which created 2,600 new small schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia — has been ditched by Gates and his foundation. School districts across the nation were left disrupted, with some charging that Gates had abandoned the successful good schools he created and Gates citing statistics showing the project failed. Gates has now moved on to funding a completely different approach. . . .
Schneider continues, “Gates is a businessman. If one business venture is failing, move on to the next. So what if it hurts people?” (Deutsch29.wordpress.com, 3-15-13)
In the case of Common Core, Gates’s possibly naïve, possibly devious experiment stands to harm an entire generation of schoolchildren.
Bill Gates Demands Common Core
Undaunted by his first false start, Gates has nonetheless undertaken the funding of a sweeping change in American education. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation now promotes an untested, top-down, national standards scheme with aligned testing that has children, parents, and teachers reeling from the fallout. Individual states and local school boards are not helpless to stop the juggernaut but little has actually been achieved. The grassroots movement to stop Common Core has gained traction but no state has effectively halted Common Core implementation. Indiana has pulled out of Common Core but drafts of the standards they are developing are, so far, about a 90% match to Common Core. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia are the only states that have never adopted Common Core standards.
One reason Common Core is difficult to slow down and examine is Gates Foundation money. Gates has handed out money to organizations, think tanks, and newspapers, providing organizations and the people behind them with enormous amounts of cash. This may have influenced opinions and tainted reports about Common Core standards. Ethics breaches may be occurring because of Gates Foundation dollars. Besides the $2.3 billion in direct Gates cash, many businesses and other entities are making unprecedented amounts of money from Common Core implementation.
Common Core is a perfect example of a few people making something happen, many more just going along with what happened, and the rest left wondering what just happened. The Obama administration, Bill Gates, and a small circle of others circumvented the voting public and pushed Common Core into schools.
Gates has control of the opinion machine; he’s given grants to hundreds of education “reform” groups who now support Common Core. The Gates Foundation is a primary funder of Education Week, which calls itself “American Education’s Newspaper of Record.” Articles tend to paint opponents of Common Core as Tea Party fanatics. In each edition, the newspaper features ads for Common Core-related companies and curriculum; many of them are glossy full-page color ads that garner hefty revenue for the publication.
Even the PTA has been subverted by Gates’s money. The National Parent Teacher Association failed to take a stand for students and parents. Gates Foundation dollars have flowed to the PTA for years; they received $2 million in 2009 and in 2013 they received almost $500,000 “to educate parents and communities on the Common Core Standards and empower leaders to create the changes needed in their school systems.” In other words, to persuade parents to accept Common Core.