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Grass-roots Advocacy? Ask Bill Gates

Bill Gates SpeakingThis spring, a handful of outspoken teachers helped persuade Indiana lawmakers to eliminate seniority-based layoff policies. They wrote briefing papers, published an op-ed article in the Indianapolis Star, and testified before the legislature. These were not just ordinary classroom teachers, however, but members of Teach Plus, a national grass-roots education advocacy group “financed significantly” by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the New York Times (5/21) reported.

For years, the Gates foundation’s educational philanthropy has focused on breaking up large high schools and promoting small schools. The new strategy, according to the New York Times article, aims to overhaul the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union seniority systems and support the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It also is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.

“We’ve learned that school-level investments aren’t enough to drive systemic changes,” the article quoted Allan C. Golston, president of the foundation’s United States program as saying. “The importance of advocacy has gotten clearer and clearer.” In 2009, the latest year for which tax returns are available, the foundation spent $373 million on education, with $78 million devoted to advocacy. That is four times the amount spent on advocacy in 2005. Over the next five or six years, the foundation expects to pour $3.5 billion more into education, up to 15 percent of it on advocacy.

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One Response to “Grass-roots Advocacy? Ask Bill Gates”

  1. I hope the people pushing for change really think they are doing the best thing for education when they pushed to remove senority as a basis for FIRING. However the statement that they were members of “Teach Plus” and that “they were ‘financed significantly’ by the Gates” certainly gave me reason to pause and wonder if maybe the financial part affected their fervor.
    When I read the article, it made me actually sick. I have taught a long time, and work really hard, putting in long hours. I’m sure I probably have taught long enough to be one of the teachers that the members of “Teach Plus” “who are not ordinary teachers” would want to get rid of. My hours are longer than many of the “new” teachers who are not willing to work that hard. I am not complaining, I knew what the job was, and accepted it. But, I really hate to think that my job could be taken away just because the superintendent’s wife, daughter, daughter-in-law.,etc or a member of the school board has a family member who wants a job and since there isn’t a vacancy, they get my job. I have taught long enough to witness the “good-ole-boy system” at work.

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