An estimated $4 billion of philanthropic money is spent on education each year in the United States. A large percentage of that pool comes from the pockets of reformers Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton family. According to their 990 tax forms, these philanthropists spent over $500 million in 2009 on the promotion of education reform practices in school districts nationwide.Click Each Stack For More
ABOUT: Microsoft founder Bill Gates has long been interested in confronting major global issues. Consistently ranked one of the richest men in the world, Gates made his money in authoring the computer operating system Windows. In 1999, Gates became a “centi-billionaire,” as his assets topped $101 billion.
With his wife, Gates established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 1994. Today, the Gates Foundation has assets of $37.1 billion, combined with the approximately $30 billion given to the foundation by the Warren Buffet Foundation in 2006. The Gates Foundation makes monetary pledges “driven by the interests and passions of the Gates Family,” namely global access to health care, international poverty reduction and in the United States, increased access to quality education and information technology.
According to a New York Times’ article that analyzed the Gates Foundation’s 2009 990 tax form, Gates’ education spending is spread across the board: supporting charter schools, scholarship funds and campaigns for innovative teacher evaluation methods. The New York Times reported the total education spending by the Gates Foundation in 2009 to be $373 million.
Among its philanthropic commitments for 2011 is the Intensive Partnership for Effective Teaching programs in Los Angeles, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Hillsborough County, Fla. It has pledged $290 million to supporting plans to change how teachers are “recruited, developed, rewarded and retained.”
Since 2000, the Gates Foundation has spent roughly $2 billion dollars in the creation of small schools in public school districts across the United States.
The Walton family is among the richest families in world, with combined assets of $83.5 billion. The descendants of Walmart founders Bud and Sam Walton, the family still collectively owns 48 percent of the Walmart Corporation.
The Walton Family Foundation, established by Sam Walton and his wife Helen in 1962, donated more than $378 million in 2009 to the causes of its choice. Among its philanthropic interests are K-12 education reform, freshwater and marine conservation, and quality of life issues in the state of Arkansas (where Walmart was founded).
The Walton Family Foundation has directed the majority of its education philanthropy toward establishing charter schools in cities across America. In 2009, it donated $34.1 million to charter school operators nationwide and an additional $15.6 million to state charter school associations, according to its 2009 990 tax form.
In addition to its politically-tinged support of charter schools, the Walton Family Foundation gives an estimated $30 million to education scholarship funds.
Eli Broad is a wealthy Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and philanthropist, donating extensively to public education and the arts. One of the richest individuals in Southern California, Broad made his billions in real estate development, partnering with Donald Kaufman to found the Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation. In 1971, he acquired Sun Insurance Company of America and ultimately transformed it into the retirement savings conglomerate SunAmerica. Broad sold SunAmerica to AIG in 1999 for $18 billion.
School vouchers, sometimes known as education vouchers, are government-issued certificates that can be applied to tuition at a private school. The most conservative of the 'school choice' campaigns, school vouchers seek to offer increased options to parents while promoting free market competition in public education.
The National Education Association (NEA) is the most outspoken opponent of school vouchers, claiming they will lead to the reduction of funding for and the privatization of public education.
Merit pay offers financial inventive to perform at a high level. While used often in the private sector, merit pay has come into vogue in discussions of education reform. Supporters of merit pay--including President Barack Obama--claim that using the management strategies of the business world will bring more efficiency and higher test scores to public schools.
Opponents, like national teachers' unions the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), say that current teacher evaluation methods are not consistent enough to ensure that biases will not be at play in merit pay. The NEA has also spoken out against systems that make "students part of the pay equation."
Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools that operate autonomously within a local school district. They are still held accountable for state and local educational standards. The "charter" is a contract between a school operator and a local district or state establishing the school's mission, programs, assessment mechanisms and proposed goals. The first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1991.
Charter schools benefit from small class sizes and local decision-making. A Stanford study, however, found that 83 percent of the time charter schools perform the same or worse than their public school counterparts. Nevertheless, the number of charters school has increased dramatically in the past few years--with the blessing of the Obama administration--and shows no signs of stopping.
No Child Left Behind was the education coup of the Bush Administration. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001--which was supported by politicians on both sides of the aisle--required states to set achievement standards for basic skills. In turn, Congress approved increased federal education spending.
While reformers were besotted with No Child Left Behind as a great equalizer, critics argued that it encouraged "teaching to the test." Nevertheless, the United States Department of Education touted the statistics provided by the National Assessment of Educational Progress indicating that, among 9-year-olds, math and reading skills improved drastically by 2005.
No Child Left Behind is still in place today.
On July 24, 2009, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Race to the Top program. Race to the Top encouraged states to compete for federal funding by submitting innovation proposals. Among the Department of Education's criteria were statewide longitudinal data systems, evaluation of teacher and principal performance, strategies for improving low-performing schools and the removal of state caps on charter schools.
Race to the Top was funded by the $4.3 billion allotted for education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly know as the "stimulus package." It has currently gone through two phases.
Supporters of Race to the Top applauded the policy's ability to instigate dramatic education reform in a short period of time. Opponents found it an unfair distribution of federal education funding.