The next time you hear an education “reformer” promoting such unproven changes as removing seniority from teacher layoff policies or making teacher evaluations heavily dependent on student test scores – sound familiar? – think Bill Gates.
According to an excellent article in The New York Times, Gates has emerged as the biggest huckster of Astroturf in the supposedly “grass roots” movement toward improving educational quality. The article, in case you haven’t read it, is linked below.
Gates is not an educational expert, and he hasn’t been elected to public office. But he is a multibillionaire with opinions, and he is using his billions to force his viewpoints on decisionmakers who, in many cases, may not have any idea who is manufacturing what they assume is grass roots public opinion.
According to the article, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent $373 million on education (or Gates’ view of it) in 2009 alone and expects to spend another $3.5 billion over the next five or six years, much of it on advocacy.
Recipients include think tanks, universities, bloggers, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers and various education reform groups, including pseudograss roots organizations.
And, in the interest of full disclosure, the two major teacher unions – including the National Education Association, with which TSTA is affiliated – also have received Gates money, although many of his initiatives are clearly intended to undermine the real education experts – the teachers whom the unions represent.