The Associated Press reported that Bill Gates’s charity has donated $44 million to organizations since 2016 in an effort to influence states’ education agendas. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation channeled the funds into research in favor of Gates’s interests, purchased positive media releases and influenced Tennessee’s new education plans. The donations began after the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was enacted in 2015.
ESSA permits states to design the structures for their individual education systems and obtain federal money for adhering to those structures. However, it also called for a convention of standards, which is Common Core for most states. Gates is an outspoken advocate for Common Core and has been pushing for these standards as states formulate their education plans.
The AP story revealed that the head of an advocacy group financed by Gates’s foundation collaborated with a key advisory committee in Tennessee during the development of that state’s new education plan. Further, Gates paid a media outlet to report on ESSA. That media outlet also reported about research that Gates had funded. Common Core opponents argue that Gates’s benevolence is manipulating public education.
Although U.S. school reform is a relatively small part of the Gates Foundation’s philanthropic efforts, the Microsoft co-founder’s organization is the leading financial backer of education reform in America. Since 2001, Gates’s charity has donated over $6 billion toward influencing the American education system. The organization maintains that it is only attempting to help guide states in a transition toward more localized control over education plans.