THE BLOG

Who Does Gates Fund for "General Operating Support"?

05/26/2015 12:07 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2016

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On its website, the Gates Foundation makes it clear that it often initiates contact with organizations to apply for specific grants and that it does not fund what it does not consider a Gates Foundation "priority."

The assertiveness of the Gates Foundation in funding its approved version of education reform takes on head-tilting meaning when one considers the organizations that Gates funds "for general operating support."

That means that the Gates Foundation has decided to that it wants to keep such organizations in business. So, it gives them money to stay afloat, like Dad shelling out an allowance to the kids.

There is no greater opportunity for fiscal dependence on the Gates Foundation than for an organization to receive Gates money for general operating expenses- especially in the case of repeated operating support grants. Note also that the Gates Foundation pays its grants in installments, and it sure can become easy to get used to those regularly-arriving payments to help with salaries and other expenses.

Then comes the layer of dependence known as being part of the Gates-endorsed, corporate reform "in crowd"- an open door to additional fiscal and political opportunities for those willing to travel the route of test-score-driven education privatization.

On the Gates "awarded grants" search engine, the keywords "general operating support" yielded 1000 results. Some of these are duplicates, and many are outside of the field of education.

Let us consider Gates' grant payouts to education-styled organizations, especially those that have received more than one Gates-directed, operating-support grant or that have received the larger operating-support grants in the last few years.

Let's start with Gates operating support to charter schools and related organizations.

Most recent on the Gates operating support payout list is the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) for $800,000 in April 2015. In March 2012 and September 2010, Gates gave CCSA $1 million for general operating support each time.

Two of the largest Gates grants toward charter schools were for $3 million each, one in June 2014 and one, in June 2012, to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (total $6 million).

The largest single grant was for $5.5 million, to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), in November 2007.

In October 2009, NAPCS received $500,000 that was more to the point: "to provide general operating support for continued growth of the charter industry." NAPCS's first Gates grant for operating support was for $50,000 July 2006.

In November 2014, Gates paid $199,767 to the Puget Sound Educational Service District "to support the development and implementation of and to provide back-office support and operations support services for public charter schools in Washington state." Also in Washington state and receiving Gates money for operations was the Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter High School ($9,700 in October 2008).

Other charter school entities receiving Gates money for operating support include the Texas Charter Schools Association ($250,000 in May 2009 and $650,000 in May 2010); the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools ($450,000 in April 2011 and $200,000 in November 2012); the Georgia Charter Schools Association ($250,000 in October 2012); the Illinois Network of Charter Schools ($600,000 in September 2011), and the New York City Charter School Center ($950,000 in September 2010). Also on the list: the Charter School Leadership Council ($800,000 in January 2006) and the Charter Schools Policy Institute ($200,000 in January 2006).

And now, moving beyond Gates charter school sustenance and expansion funding:

Other notable corporate reform entities receiving Gates money for operating support include Common Core State Standards (CCSS) mouthpiece, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with an established Gates-money operating-support relationship in the form of three grants, and all after CCSS made its June 1010 debut: $500,000 in June 2011; $1 million in April 2013, and a fresh infusion of $1.1 million in April 2015.

The Fordham Institute is inextricably connected to the Fordham Foundation, which had $52 million in total assets at the end of 2013, according to the Fordham Foundation 2013 990. So, taking operating support from Gates for the Fordham Institute appears to be a matter of taking the cash because the cash was offered.

Political alliance cement in the name of "We'll be able to do so much more."

Then, there's very pro-CCSS organization, Children Now, with an executive vice president hailing from education privatization strategic center, McKinsey and Company. Gates paid Children Now $700,000 toward operating support in March 2015.

Pro-CCSS-test-score-focused Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (TNSCORE) has also received its share of Gates operating support: $2.3 million in January 2015; CCSS-lesson conduit, the Teaching Channel: $2.5 million in November 2014 to follow a healthy $7 million in June 2013; and Teach Plus, a fine slice of general operating support pie, $7.5 million in October 2014.

In seven states and DC, Teach Plus actively promotes both CCSS implementation and the message to "opt in" with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. It even has a survey showing that Massachusetts teachers want PARCC over the state MCAS.

Why, it would be quite the Gates oversight not to dole out multiple millions to keep Teach Plus going.

That noted, no organization comes close to receiving the amount of Gates funding just to keep the doors open as does Education Trust. Since 2002, Ed Trust has received $31.4 million from Gates in the form of eight grants.

Ed Trust has been influential in such amazing test-score-driven reform wonders as helping to draft No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and, along with Fordham Institute and Achieve, promoting CCSS-and-common-assessments precursor, the American Diploma Project (ADP).

Gates also pays operating support to former West Virginia governor Bob Wise's Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE). Interestingly, Gates did not send the big money to AEE until after there was a CCSS: $500,000 in July 2003; $2.5 million in October 2012 and $3.5 million in August 2014. On its site, AEE describes itself as "a respected advocate for the Common Core State Standards."

An organization new to me on the Gates allowance gravy train is the Minnesota-based Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network. PIE Network is a Who's Who of corporate reform; its board of directors includes Cynthia Brown from the Center for American Progress (CAP); Christine Brown from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) (in Gates' backyard of Seattle, Washington); Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children (SFC); Kati Haycock of the Education Trust; Jeb Bush right hand, Patricia Levesque of the Foundation for Excellent Education (FEE); Deborah McGriff of NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF), Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, and Jamie Woodson of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).

PIE Network executive director Suzanne Tacheny Kubach is a former board chair of KIPP Academy Minneapolis. Her husband, Doug Kubach, is the president of Pearson's School division. (I reference Doug Kubach in this May 2015 Pearson post.)

On its 2011 990, PIE Network's greatest expense was some "spring executive meetings" described as "candid, closed-door meetings that are held to connect leading innovators with their peers in other states, enabling the spread of ideas and information about school reform." The description of PIE Network intention continues in another section:

The annual policy summit brings together the nation's leading education innovators in an intimate setting designed to foster discussion and build relationships. Network members are able to bring several guests from their state, which allows them to build powerful teams that can tackle reform challenges. In 2011, guests included state department of education officials, including a state schools chief.

An effort to weave corporate reform into the fabric of state departments of education.

On its 2013 990, PIE Network includes no such "candid" details about its operations.

In July 2014, Gates funded PIE Network operations for $1.5 million.

Another curious Gates general operating support grant was this June 2014 grant for $24 million to the Bloomberg Family Foundation. What strikes me is that three months later, in September 2014, the Bloomberg, Walton, and Broad Foundations decided to finance pro-corporate-reform blog, Education Post- along with a mystery donor.

It may be nothing. Just noticing, is all: Education Post is trying hard to push the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and it might not look too good if the billionaire who agreed in 2008 to bankroll CCSS is also financially supporting a pro-CCSS blog that offers supposed "honest, straight talk" absent any "playing politics."

If my thoughts are off base, Education Post CEO Peter Cunningham should feel free to set me straight with some of that "honest, straight talk" regarding the specifics on that mystery funder.

Next on the list of hefty Gates operating support money to education organizations is Lumina Foundation-founded, Maryland-based Achieving the Dream, a "national reform network" specializing in "institutional change," "policy reform," "sharing knowledge," and "engaging the community" in order to "close achievement gaps and accelerate student success nationwide" for community college students.

In December 2012, Gates paid Achieving the Dream $646,000 toward general operating support, and in May 2014, Gates increased that amount by another $2.4 million.

That takes care of 2014-15 Gates operating support to education and "education-ish" organizations.

Here are some notable organizations that have received Gates operating support in 2013. (Note that a 2013 Gates grant could still be paid in installments in 2015):

--4.0 Schools, $750,000 in September 2013. (They are "game changing" drivers of "innovation.")

--North American Council for Online Learning (now the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, (iNACOL), $1 million in October 2013.

--The New Teacher Center (NTC), $8 million in November 2013. (I wrote about NTC founder Ellen Noir in February 2013 as part of my National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) series.)

--Innosight Institute (now the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation), $650,000 in October 2013.

--Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), $1.5 million in August 2013.

--Michelle Rhee's The New Teacher Project (TNTP), $7 million in August 2013.

Those interested in systematically investigating Gates grants for operating support paid out up through 2012 can start their investigation here.

For now, I am done.

However, allow me to offer this observation in closing:

In her defense of choosing to continue accepting Gates funding, National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia insinuates that accepting Gates money "is complicated" since Gates appears to fund "a spectrum" of education (or education-styled) organizations.

In my post dated May 18, 2015, I take issue with Garcia's unabated plan to accept Gates funding for NEA despite her April 25, 2015, Network for Public Education (NPE) public statement indicating otherwise.

And in this current post, I close with an observation regarding Gates' doling out millions to favored "education" organizations for general operating support:

On the Gates grants search engine, the keywords, "general operating support school" yielded 80 results.

Three times, Gates supported traditional public schools. All three grants were for Seattle Public Schools: $500,000 in March 2001; $850,000 in May 2006, and $1000 in May 2013.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does not consider general operating support to traditional public schools to be among its funding priorities.

Not at all complicated.

Originally posted 05-24-15 at deutsch29.wordpress.com

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

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