Report: Gates Foundation funds many voices
TAMPA -- Think you hear a lot about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Tampa Bay?
You're not the only ones. Of the $373 million the foundation spent on education in 2009, $78 million was devoted to advocacy -- in other words, influencing the debate on education reform -- the New York Times reports today.
“It’s Orwellian in the sense that through this vast funding they start to control even how we tacitly think about the problems facing public education,” said Bruce Fuller, a former Harvard professor who now teaches at the University of California at Berkeley. He said he has resisted the temptation to accept the foundation's funding.
Many others have not, the paper reports. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Educational Excellence pulled in $500,000. Frederick Hess -- a researcher who has not shied away from criticizing some elements of the Gates agenda, including its use of value-added methods -- works for the American Enterprise Institute, which got the same amount.
But while researchers and groups will tell you they remain independent and wouldn't compromise their principles for money, some might also admit to thinking twice about directly criticizing the folks in Seattle.
“There can be an exquisite carefulness about how we’re going to say anything that could reflect badly on a foundation," Hess said. "Everybody’s implicated."
And then there's this: "In 2009, the foundation spent $3.5 million creating an advocacy group to buttress its $290 million investment in programs to increase teacher effectiveness in four areas of the country: Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., Pittsburgh, Memphis and Los Angeles. "
Apparently this group aims to fire up local advocates, push the teachers' union, and curry favor with journalists. Sounds a little bit like this effort.