Gates, Not the States, Driving Education Policy?

Further evidence that the Common Core is special-interest driven and led, not state-led.  Joy Pullman writing for the Heartland Institute’s School Reform News pointed out how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is driving education policy through its funding.  Some excerpts:

A recent example was a January legislative hearing on the Common Core, an initiative defining K-12 tests and curriculum requirements in 46 states. Gates has spent $173 million to develop the Core and corresponding curriculum, and to get lawmakers and business leaders to support it. Twenty-six of the 32 people who testified against a bill to withdraw Indiana from the Core are members of organizations the Gates Foundation funds.

“The Gates Foundation completely orchestrated the Common Core,” but when states actually implement the Core its will likely add to Gates’ mixed policy track record, said Jay Greene, who runs the University of Arkansas’ department of education reform.

There is concern about the lack of  transparency in the process.

Reckhow labels big education foundations a “shadow bureaucracy,” whose incubation of education initiatives cloaks the process from ordinary citizens. This is what bothers citizen activist Alisa Ellis.

Gates bankrolled the development of the Common Core through the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), but because all three are nonprofits their policymaking happens in private meetings, the Utah mom noted. Citizens can’t find out who attends or makes decisions, or what information they take into account when doing so, as they can for state boards of education and legislatures.

Gates and federal funding make up the majority of CCSSO’s income, according to its two most recent financial statements.

They have a big reach…

The foundation has directly sponsored state departments of education and myriad groups who aim to influence policymakers. In 2012, it gave $1.9 million to the Kentucky Department of Education “to examine the use of high-quality curriculum to accelerate common core state standards implementation.” The Pennsylvania Business Roundtable got $257,391 “to educate Pennsylvania opinion leaders, policymakers, the media, and the public on Common Core State Standards and the Common State Assessment.” The Foundation for Excellence in Education received $151,068 “to complete a statewide communications campaign in Florida … on why there is a drop in school grades, why it is temporary, and how raising the bar on education standards leads to greater student success.”

For more examples of Gates’ influence on one education policy, view this spreadsheet of all its grants related to the Common Core, which include development, money for states to put it in place, and messaging to target groups like politicians, teachers, and business leaders.

Nearly everyone interviewed for this article agreed Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation’s employees are, as Greene put it, “good people trying to do good things.” But that does not quell their concerns.

I don’t think many people will quibble the good intentions of these foundations, but that they subvert the basic democratic processes designed to help encourage liberty and equality is what we should be concerned about,” Thomas said. (emphasis mine)

Money quote above.  Be sure to read the whole article and share it.