Does Bill Gates’ money circumvent the American process?
Heartland Institute’s Joy Pullman writes about the funding and promotion of Common Core; that while it is common for foundations to fund research, it is out of the ordinary to watch the way the Gates Foundation is working. For example, Pullman notes that “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.”
Pullman quotes the dean of Claremont Graduate University, who notes:
“It’s the way [Gates is] doing it that we think is curious,” Thomas said. “It’s an intrusion into the public sphere more directly that has not been seen before. They’re jumping into the policy process itself. That’s an interesting position, for a nonprofit to be involved in things that look a lot like lobbying.”
“Gates’ financing for initiatives like the federal Race to the Top (RTT) grant competition and in creating “intermediate organizations” to carry out its mission: “Heavens, this is some pretty direct stuff.”
Fourteen of 16 RTT-winning states received Gates funding for consultants to help write their applications for federal money. RTT grants also committed winning states to the Common Core before it was written.
“The Gates Foundation’s agenda has become the country’s agenda in education,” Michael Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, told the Puget Sound Business Journal in 2009 after four Gates employees moved to the U.S. Department of Education. Two US DOE transfers from Gates received Obama administration waivers from its conflict of interest policy banning lobbyists from becoming high-ranking federal employees.
“Gates has a sort of magnetic force” to attract media attention, other donors, and politicians Reckhow said, noting “the single-mindedness with which they pursue an agenda.” Because of this, Gates priorities can “crowd out” others.
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.