The American Federation of Teachers ended a five-year relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after rank-and-file union members expressed deep distrust of the foundation’s approach to education reform. AFT President Randi Weingarten told Morning Education the union will no longer accept Gates money for its Innovation Fund, which was founded in 2009 and has received up to $1 million a year in Gates grants ever since. The Innovation Fund has sponsored AFT efforts to help teachers implement the Common Core standards — a Gates priority — among other initiatives.
— Weingarten said she didn’t believe Gates funding influenced the Innovation Fund’s direction, but still had to sever the relationship. “I got convinced by the level of distrust I was seeing — not simply on Twitter, but in listening to members and local leaders — that it was important to find a way to replace Gates funding,” she said. Weingarten plans to ask members to vote this summer on a dues hike of 5 cents per month, which she said would raise $500,000 a year for the Innovation Fund.
Valerie Strauss also wrote at the Washington Times:
Weingarten said at the conference that she had decided to stop taking Gates money for the Innovation Fund after talking with many union members, who have been unsettled by the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which have been heavily supported by the Gates Foundation and Bill Gates for years.
Weingarten has supported the standards but called the implementation in recent years“far worse” than the rollout of the Obama administration’s problem-plagued health insurance Web site in the fall, and has called for a rethinking of the standards for the youngest students. Teachers have complained that they have not had enough time to learn the standards and create new materials to teach students, and some states have already given high-stakes standardized tests said to be aligned with the new standards.