The second richest person on the planet, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has used the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s $37 billion to fund philanthropic interests the world over. But Gates’s investment of $173 million to shape and promote a uniform set of education standards, known as the Common Core, has some education advocates mounting a state-level resistance to the Gates initiative.
One of the groups leading the opposition is the conservative American Principles Project (APP). Senior APP fellow Jane Robbins says the Gates Foundation is flexing its sizable policy muscles in ways that run roughshod over local control and trample parental rights.
“He's attempting to dictate public education policy,” says Robbins. “No one elected him to address these problems, and he and his foundation are completely unaccountable to parents and localities that might disagree with the direction he is taking their schools.”
Others, like Michigan State University political scientist Sarah Reckhow, warn that large education foundations like the Gates Foundation can morph into a “shadow bureaucracy” that lacks transparency and community input.
“Through an alliance with progressive education reformers in Washington, the Gates Foundation is usurping the local control that is a hallmark of American education,” says APP’s Jane Robbins. “Standards and other policies are being created behind closed doors, without any transparency, and then imposed on local communities without their consent.”
Common Core critics say that local and parental control must be returned to its rightful place in shaping the contours of education curriculum.
“Our founders never intended for education to be run out of Washington, whether by the federal government or by unaccountable private interests,” said Robbins. “One of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans is to bring up our children, and educate them, in the manner we deem best--and that is what is threatened by the Common Core scheme.”