All the News that's Fit to Print and What the New York Times Leaves Out
Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.--Sam Dillon, The New York Times front page, May 22, 2011
What Good News: Sam Dillon at the New York Times has discovered that "local teachers who favor school reform" are actually operatives for a national organization, Teach Plus, financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
What Bad News: For years, a number of us have been screaming about Gates buying up education policy but nobody would listen.
But let's celebrate what has happened. This story revealing Gates funding everything from the development (and evaluation) of Common Core Standards to the promotion of the public school-bashing "Waiting for 'Superman'" film was front-page news in the paper of record. And until this happened, the Gates' Foundation's wealth has put it beyond criticism--except by those of us marginalized as the lunatic fringe. In a spirit of collegiality, I offer a few notes to flesh out Dillon's account.
For starters, take a look at the way the Gates Foundation is commonly portrayed: Paul Hill's A Foundation Goes to School in Education Next, Winter 2006.
Although the Hoover Institution publishes Education Next, the business office is at Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard Kennedy School. Paul Peterson,Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, is the editor-in-chief. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution is senior editor. Finn also lists himself as "public servant." The Next mission statement takes the high road, professing that the publication "partakes of no program, campaign, or ideology. It goes where the evidence points." That said, in February 2010 the Gates Foundation gave Next $224,030 to support their Charter Initiative.
On June 7, 2007, Bill Gates, at the time, the world's richest man, received an honorary doctorate from Harvard.
Few Degrees of Separation
Gates operates in a small world of kissing kin. Everybody is inter-connected. Dillon doesn't mention that Monique Burns Thompson, President of Teach Plus, is a co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools. Before that, she was assistant brand manager at Quaker Oats. Heather Peske, National Director of Programs, was formerly Director of Teacher Quality at Education Trust. She launched her career in education as a Teach for America corps member.
There are plenty of Ivy League graduates on their Board of Advisors, which means:
1) They have the connections to make things happen;
2) They have both of Barack Obama's ears. Obama can't seem to say no to Ivy League pundits.
Teach Plus Advisory Committee Members
NOTE: In "Michelle Rhee is 'Not Done Fighting' against public school teachers and unions, Adam Neenan reported for Substance Dec. 16, 2010, on one Teach Plus data-collecting strategy as they hosted a by-invitation-only discussion with educational entrepreneur Michelle Rhee.
The unnamed Washington Post blogger referred to by Dillon is, of course, Valerie Strauss. She revealed some of Gates Foundation shady funding Gates spends millions to sway public on ed reform. She included hot links to important documents in this operation. You won't want to miss the Confidential Letter.
Don't you wonder why journalists are so reluctant to acknowledge the good work of other journalists? Why does Valerie Strauss remain unnamed?
In June 2006, Joshua Benton of the Dallas Morning News reported that within the Texas Education Agency, contracts often were not competitively bid but depended on whom one knew at the Gates Foundation.
Diane Ravitch was on target in a July 30, 2006 Los Angeles Timespiece: "In light of the size of the foundation's endowment, Bill Gates is now the nation's superintendent of schools. He can support whatever he wants, based on any theory or philosophy that appeals to him." This was positioned as an opinion piece and there was no follow-up from the education press.
Nor was there any media mention of my heavily documented piece in Extra, September 2010, "'Race to the Top' and the Bill Gates Connection: Who gets to speak about what schools need?"
Wanting to see which "independent experts" reporters called upon to explain Race to the Top and the Common Core standards, I examined over 700 articles published between mid-May 2009 and mid-July 2010. I eliminated cites from state ed officials, union officials and politicos. This left me with 152 outside experts quoted in 414 articles. Of the 23 experts quoted five times or more, 15 have connections with institutions receiving Gates funding and 13 with strong charter advocacy institutions. Who doesn't gets cited, raised very troubling questions. [See Appendix for whom Sam Dillon quoted in this time frame.]
Dillon's mention that National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CSSEO) received "millions of dollars" is rather like identifying half a dozen root canals as "a dental procedure." Since January 2008, Gates has shelled out more than $35 million to the Council of Chief School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, the two primary organizations charged with drafting and promoting common standards. Daniel Golden's
In the Lowell Sun (7/18/10), Matt Murphy provided dollar amounts of Gates funding received by the Council of Chief School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practice, Achieve, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, provoking Sam Smith of the Progressive Review to offer this headline (7/23/10):Is the Gates Foundation Involved in Bribery?
Sam Smith seemed to be the only one who noticed.
Please Note: We--you and I--are paying for Gates' pet projects. Kenneth Saltman points out something few people seem to realize: For every ten dollars given by the Gates Foundation, four dollars is lost from the public wealth in taxes. The philanthropist's dollars would otherwise go to the public in the form of taxes. So a big chunk of all that money Gates is spending to get teachers on script, destroy tenure, and standardize curriculum is actually OUR money; Bill Gates is using our tax dollars to mold America. And part of the plan--well on its way-- is to de-professionalize teachers. Saltman calls on readers "to stop applying business metaphors and logic to educational thinking derived from discredited market fundamentalism." Such terms as choice, monopoly, turnaround, efficiency need to be dropped in favor of public language and assumptions. Taxpayers are subsidizing (as tax-free) an organization bent on undermining their best interests. [See Kenneth Saltman's The Gift of Education: Public Education and Venture Philanthropy and Philip Kovacs' edited collection, The Gates Foundation and the Future of U. S. "Public" Schools.
You can see for yourself where your money goes: The New York Timeshas put excerpts from quotthe Bill and Melinda Gates 2009 Tax 990 Form online along with Dillon's article.
Why only excerpts? The form runs 263 pages and includes about 360 education grants. If you want more details, watch for Ken Libby's work. His expertise on foundation largess is acknowledged in Dillon's article.
Dillon calls Gates' work "assertive philanthropy," surely a euphemism of our time. Usage: the Obama-Duncan era: The U. S. Department of Education holds hands with assertive philanthropists.
Here they are:
More Gates Awardees
Education Trust, another Gates favorite, needs no introduction. They received $1.5 million and change in 2007 and another million in 2010.
The National PTA received $1 millon grant to mobilize parents for the Common Core Standards in four states. -- Dec. 2, 2009
The May 18, 2011 Education Week, (which gets its own Gates funding, as in $2,534,757 in 2005, another $100,000 in 2005, and $1,997,280 in 2009.) ran a 3/4 page ad from ASCD. It was presented in the form on an opinion piece by Executive Director Gene R. Carter offering strong support of the Common Core. The ad doesn't mention that The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $3 million to ASCD "to support that group's efforts to help education leaders and educators themselves understand the standards and implement them." -- The Journal, April 5, 2011
Stand for Children Leadership Center
Date: December 2009
Purpose: to support the grassroots organization, policy development, and coalition work of Stand for Children Leadership Center focused on advancing common policy priorities in early learning and college ready Gates lists support of the Common Core as "college-ready education."
This was reported as a three-year grant, but the next year, Stand For Children was back with a $3,476,300 grant --to support education reforms, training, technical assistance, and tools designed to increase teacher effectiveness.
Substancehas had plenty of coverage on this outfit's union-busting activities. Here are a few:
Jonah Edelman, identified as "intense leader of reform group Stand for Children," was the subject of an April 2011 New York Times puff piece which does not mention any Gates funding.
Purpose: to invest in projects related to the Common Core and to assist in carrying out a Standards Rollout
Term: 1 year and 3 months
Topic: College-Ready Education
Purpose: to continue the American Federation Of Teachers Innovation Fund's efforts to support local affiliates that engage in research-based, union-developed teacher quality initiatives and to work with a consortium of local and state affiliates--the Teacher Excellence Collaborative--to create and implement a comprehensive development and evaluation system based upon the American Federation Of Teachers framework
Term: 2 years and 1 month
Topic: College-Ready Education
Purpose: to support the work of a teacher evaluation task force, which is made up of progressive local and state leaders who will develop a comprehensive framework for teacher evaluation that focuses on research-based instructional practices and how to incorporate student-achievement results, to support the work of the task force, the publication and widespread dissemination of the final report, and a national conference dedicated to the framework, with some technical assistance to interested districts
Term: 1 year and 2 months
Topic: College-Ready Education
A link to the 2008 AFT report Sizing up the State Standards
NEA The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education
Date: March 2010
Purpose: to support an in-person meeting of the Planning Committee of the NEA Foundation Institute for Local Innovation in Teaching and Learning
Term: 2 months
Topic: College-Ready Education
The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education
Date: October 2009
Purpose: to support training for local NEA affiliates to take on a leadership role in improving teaching practice and student achievement in their districts
Term: 11 months
Topic: College-Ready Education
Just a Coincidence
In Nov. 2009, the Hillsborough County Public Schools received $100 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to radically change teacher practices. This Gates plan also involves Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Denver, District of Columbia, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Prince George's County, Rochester, and Seattle. They operate under the aegis of the Gates-funded <b>Aspen Urban Superintendents Network,</b> which has been made possible by generous grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.
In 2009, Gates alone gave the Aspen Institute $3,878,680.
Purpose: to continue support for Human Capital Framework, Senior Congressional Staff Network, and the Urban Superintendents Network to address common issues of teacher effectiveness, standards, and assessments
AFT President Randi Weingarten offers the AFT congratulations for the Hillsborough, Memphis, Pittsburgh seduction on the Gates website: "These Gates Intensive Partnership grants will show that when dedicated adults engage in true collaboration, the real winners are the students."
For those of you gasping for breath, I suggest subscribing to http://www.susanohanian.org, where such information comes regularly but in smaller doses.
Joanne Barkin's brilliant summary of the Gates-Broad chicanery,"Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools," published in Dissent Magazine, January 2011 offers a substantial and damning read. Barkin sees fit to put on her short identifier that she is a graduate of Chicago public schools.
Christopher H. Tienken's Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-less Decision Making from AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, Vol. 7, No. 4 Winter 2011, offers a readable, coherent look at the Common Core--even with good lines as well as good research:
Size matters because size brings complexity. Finland, the country that usually ranks in the top five on international tests has 5.5 million people. In the U.S. we call that Wisconsin.I offer a suggested topic for Mr. Dillon's next front page expose: We produce more researchers and scientists and qualified engineers than our economy can employ, have even more in the pipeline, and we are one of the most economically competitive nations on the globe.
It's staggering to realize that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had an endowment of $33 billion as of June 2010, with an additional $30 billion from Warren Buffett, spread out over multiple years in annual contributions. This makes a lot of people lose hope. Some of us don't even operate on a shoestring but on Social Security stipends. But when we don't keep shouting, when we don't insist on government of the people, by the people and for the people, then we let thugs like Bill Gates triumph. Writing in Undernews, Is the Gates Foundation Involved in Bribery? longtime political commentator Sam Smith noted:
If an individual were to influence governmental decisions with this sort of money, it would be clearly a criminal offense. Why should it be any different for a foundation?
Here's who Dillon quotes as experts on the issue of Race to the Top and/or Common Core Standards--and how he identifies them. As you read the identifiers, remember these appeared in articles meant to inform the public about education policy.
Now ask yourself this: Who's missing? For starters, noted researcher (and former New York Times education columnist) Richard Rothstein was not quoted in any of the 700 articles I studied.
Item: Let's do the numbers: Department of Education's Race to the Top Program Offers Only a Muddled Path to the Finish Line by William Peterson and Richard Rothstein, EPI Report, April 20, 2010, documents that the Race to the Top picks winners arbitrarily.That's just for starters. Rothstein, the author of very influential work, is an acknowledged expert, and he's prolific--books, reports, papers--all relevant to the topics at hand. Yet reporters ignore him.
Likewise, David Berliner wasn't cited once in during the time period studied. So the question remains open: Why would the press shut out an expert, the co-author of the acclaimed Manufactured Crisis and Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools; and Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success --while calling up Joe Williams and his cohort Charles Barone of the Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee (PAC) tied to hedge fund interests, for 40 citations?
I name only two of the missing. Think of all the other experts who are missing from every press account of education policy. My "expert" tally showed Education Week sometimes quoting people from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute three times in one issue.
Duncan created a firestorm among bloggers when he told Sam Dillon and Tamar Lewin of theNew York Times (5/4/10) that his policies encounter no opposition: Zero. There's just an outpouring of support for the common-sense changes and the unprecedented investments we're making." This outrageous claim was left to stand unquestioned in the newspaper that still claims "All the news fit to print" on its masthead. No comments were accepted online.
Progressive Texas journalist Molly Ivins once warned (in her George W. Bush biography Shrub, "People who have read only one book can be quite dangerous." Consider the danger of allowing one foundation to dominate our education policy. I worry about the press's very deliberate avoidance of this issue, and I fear I might have found the answer in the movie Three Days of the Condor, where Joubert, the contract assassin, sums things up: "I don't interest myself in 'why.' I think more often in terms of 'when,' sometimes 'where'; always 'how much.'... The fact is what I do is not a bad occupation. Someone is always willing to pay."
--by Susan Ohanian, who was invited to write a commentary for the New York Times-- and then dis-invited because she would not withdraw her one-word criticism of Times blowhard columnist Thomas Friedman. The editor insisted that Friedman has nothing to do with education policy.
FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.