Microsoft founder Bill Gates is donating, via his foundation, some $44 million to outside groups to continue his education reform agenda in the states.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving the funds to enable various organizations to have a stake in deciding state education plans.
Under the bipartisan 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal government still plays a major role in approving the education plans of each state. Despite Republicans’ insistence ESSA “repealed” the highly unpopular Common Core State Standards, those who have studied the law say ESSA has actually imposed Common Core on the entire country.
The Gates Foundation’s grants will assist education-related groups in attaining their goals as state plans are implemented.
Gates served as the primary source of private funding for Common Core and its aligned tests. After having spent some $3.4 billion on public education in the U.S., particularly on development and implementation of the Obama-era reform, last October he announced a plan to invest another $1.7 billion to improve K-12 public education over the next five years.
Sally Ho at Associated Press reports how Gates is now influencing education policy on the state level through ESSA:
The law requires academic standards, which means that the backbone for most state education systems is Common Core — a symbol for many critics during the Obama years of federal overreach in schools. Gates was influential in supporting the Common Core academic standards, and now is doing the same as states sort out the best ways to implement their education policies under the 2015 law.
“For 50 states with varying sets of capacities and capabilities and readiness, it was both an opportunity and also a concern that states and partners in those states needed support,” said Allan Golston, who heads the Gates Foundation’s work in the U.S.
As the report notes, Gates-funded group representatives can sit on important state education advisory committees to influence policies and plans. Achieve, Inc., a Gates-funded company that helped write the Common Core standards, was very involved in the education plans of Tennessee and New York, for example.
Eve Carney, who led development of the Tennessee education plan, told AP 67 stakeholders – including Achieve president Mike Cohen – participated across six working groups in the development process to provide “diversity in voice and different points of view.”