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A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending

August 27, 2013

This is a post about Bill Gates and his money, a brief audit of his Common Core (CCSS) purchases. Before I delve into Gates accounting, allow me to set the stage with a bit of CCSS background.

A Bit of CCSS Background

It is important to those promoting CCSS that the public believes the idea that CCSS is “state-led.” The CCSS website reports as much and names two organizations as “coordinating” the “state-led” CCSS: The National Governors Association (NGA), and the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Interestingly, the CCSS website makes no mention of CCSS “architect” David Coleman:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce. [Emphasis added.]

Nevertheless, if one reviews this 2009 NGA news release on those principally involved in CCSS development, one views a listing of 29 individuals associated with Student Achievement Partners, ACT, College Board, and Achieve. In truth, only 2 out of 29 members are not affiliated with an education company.

CCSS as “state-led” is fiction. Though NGA reports 29 individuals as involved with CCSS creation, it looks to be even fewer:

NGA first directly involved governors in nationalizing education standards in June 2008, when it co-hosted an education forum with the Hunt Institute, a project of former North Carolina Gov. James Hunt Jr. In December 2008, NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve Inc. released a report calling for national standards. The report recommended “a strong state-federal partnership” to accomplish this goal.

Those three nonprofits answered their own call the next few months, deciding to commission Common Core. NGA and Hunt’s press releases during that time, and a paper describing NGA’s Common Core process by former NGA education director Dane Linn, provide no endorsement of such activity from more than a handful of elected officials. [Emphasis added.]

Also involved in creation of CCSS is Student Achievement Partners, the company David Coleman started in 2007 in order produce national standards. Student Achievement Partners has no work other than CCSS.

Now to Bill Gates and his money.

Gates Buys NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners

The four principal organizations associated with CCSS– NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners– have accepted millions from Bill Gates. In fact, prior to CCSS “completion” in June 2009, Gates had paid millions to NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve. And the millions continued to flow following CCSS completion.

Prior to June 2009, NGA received $23.6 million from the Gates Foundation from 2002 through 2008. $19.7 million was for the highly-disruptive “high school redesign” (i.e., “small schools”) project, one that Gates abandoned.

After June 2009, NGA received an additional $2.1 million from Gates, the largest payout coming in February 2011,

to work with state policymakers on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, with special attention to effective resource reallocation to ensure complete execution, as well as rethinking state policies on teacher effectiveness
Amount: $1,598,477 [Emphasis added.]

Years ago, Gates paid NGA to “rethink policies on teacher effectiveness.”

One man, lots of money, nationally shaping a profession to which he has never belonged.

As for CCSSO: The Gates amounts are even higher than for NGA. Prior to June 2009, the Gates Foundation gave $47.1 million to CCSSO (from 2002 to 2007), with the largest amount focused on data “access” and “data driven decisions”:

March 2007
Purpose: to support Phase II of the National Education Data Partnership seeking to promote transparency and accessibility of education data and improve public education through data-driven decision making
Amount: $21,642,317 [Emphasis added.]

Following CCSS completion in June 2009, Gates funded CCSSO an additional $31.9 million, with the largest grants earmarked for CSSS implementation and assessment, and data acquisition and control:

July 2013
Purpose: to CCSSO, on behalf of the PARCC and SBAC consortia to support the development of high quality assessments to measure the Common Core State Standards
Amount: $4,000,000

November 2012
Purpose: to support the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in helping States’ to build their data inoperability capability and IT leadership capacity
Amount: $1,277,648

October 2012
Purpose: to support strategic planning for the sustainability of the Common Core State Standards and the two multi-state assessment consortia tasked with designing assessments aligned with those standards
Amount: $1,100,000

June 2011
Purpose: to support the Common Core State Standards work
Amount: $9,388,911

November 2009
Purpose: to partner with federal, state, public, and private interests to develop common, open, longitudinal data standards
Amount: $3,185,750

July 2009
Purpose: to increase the leadership capacity of chiefs by focusing on standards and assessments, data systems, educator development and determining a new system of supports for student learning
Amount: $9,961,842  [Emphasis added.]

Gates money also flowed to Achieve, Inc.; prior to June 2009, Achieve received $23.5 million in Gates funding. Another $13.2 million followed after CCSS creation, with $9.3 million devoted to “building strategic alliances” for CCSS promotion:

 June 2012
Purpose: to strengthen and expand the ADP Network, provide
more support to states for CCSS implementation, and build strategic national
and statewide alliances by engaging directly with key stakeholders
Amount: $9,297,699  [Emphasis added.]

CCSS is not “state led.” It is “Gates led.”

How foolish it is to believe that the man with the checkbook is not calling the CCSS shots.

The “nonprofit” Student Achievement Partners, founded by CCSS “architect” David Coleman, also benefits handsomely via Gates. All that Student Achievement Partners does is CCSS, and for that, in June 2012, Gates granted Coleman’s company $6.5 million.

In total, the four organizations primarily responsible for CCSS– NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners– have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates.

Common Core Gates Standards.

Gates Buys Select Major Ed Organizations and Think Tanks

Let us now consider major education organizations and think tanks that have accepted Gates money for the express purpose of advancing CCSS:

American Enterprise Institute: $1,068,788.

American Federation of Teachers: $5,400,000.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: $3,269,428.

Council of Great City Schools: $5,010,988.

Education Trust: $2,039,526.

National Congress of Parents and Teachers: $499,962.

National Education Association: $3,982,597.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: $1,961,116.

(For most of the organizations above, Gates has funded other reform-related efforts, including those related to charter schools, small schools, teacher evaluation, and data systems. My comprehensive listing of Gates grants for the organizations above [and then some] can be found here:  Gates Foundation Grants to Select Education and Policy Groups)

From the list of organizations above, I would like to highlight a few particular Gates purchases. First is this one, paid to the Fordham Institute:

Date: January 2011
Purpose: to track state progress towards implementation of standards and to understand how what students read changes in response to the standards
Amount: $1,002,000 [Purpose emphasis added.]

Even though CCSS was never piloted, Gates and Fordham want to watch state “progress” in implementing CCSS, and they even want to know how the untested CCSS shifts the curriculum– even though reformers are quick to parrot that CCSS is “not a curriculum.” This “tracking” tacitly acknowledges CCSS is meant to drive curriculum.

Next is this Gates purchase of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI):

Date: June 2012
Purpose: to support their education policy work in four distinct areas:
Exploring the Challenges of Common Core, Future of American Education Working Groups, Innovations in Financial Aid, and Bridging K-12 and Higher Ed with Technology
Amount: $1,068,788 [Purpose emphasis added.]

Gates is paying AEI to promote educational policy that bolsters CCSS. And Gates is getting his money’s worth from AEI “scholar” Frederick Hess, who offers these two articles advising “Common Core’ites.”

Third is the Gates purchase of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT):

Date: June 2012
Purpose: to support the AFT Innovation Fund and work on teacher
development and Common Core State Standards
Amount: $4,400,000

Even though AFT was not invited to the CCSS table until the “standards” had already been drafted by the CCSS Inner Circle noted above, and even though CCSS has not been piloted, AFT only called for a testing moratorium and not for a cease-and-desist of CCSS altogether. It appears that accepting $4.4 million in order to “work on teacher development and Common Core Standards” precludes “just saying no” to what amounts to the CCSS Colossal Education Experiment.

Fourth is the Gates purchase of the National Education Association (NEA). In July 2013, NEA officially endorsed CCSS, and in July 2013, Gates paid NEA for its support in the form of two grants totaling $6.3 million:

Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support the capacity of state NEA affiliates to advance teaching and learning issues and student success in collaboration with local affiliates
Amount: $2,426,500

Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts
Amount: $3,882,600

NEA was not at the CCSS birthing table with NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and David Coleman’s Student Achievement Partners. However, after the establishment of CCSS without teachers, now Gates is willing to pay a teachers union to create curricula that in the end do not really matter since the CCSS power is in the assessments that are completely out of NEA’s control.

I have saved my favorite CCSS-Gates purchase for last, this one to the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS):

Date: June 2011
Purpose: to promote and coordinate successful implementation of the new common core standards in major urban public school systems nationwide
Amount: $4,910,988

Date: March 2010
Purpose: to support the development of a cross-sector proposal to pilot test the new common core standards in a set of selected cities
Amount: $100,000  [Purpose emphasis added.]

It seems that Gates paid CGCS $100,000 to propose a pilot study of CCSS in 2010 (not to conduct a pilot study– just to draft the idea for a pilot). Fifteen months later, there is no mention of a “proposal” much less a pilot study materializing; instead, Gates pays CGCS to “just go ahead” and “coordinate successful implementation” of the untested CCSS.

Enough About Bill for Now

So much Gates cash, and so many hands willing to accept it.

Bill Gates likes Common Core. So, he is purchasing it. In doing so, Gates demonstrates (sadly so) that when one has enough money, one can purchase fundamentally democratic institutions.

I do not have billions to counter Gates. What I do have is this blog and the ability to expose the purchase.

I might be without cash, but I am not without power.

Can Bill Gates buy a foundational democratic institution? Will America allow it? The fate of CCSS will provide crucial answers to those looming questions.

Also see Parts IIIIIIV , V , and VI of this series.

From → Common Core, Gates

120 Comments
  1. chungatest permalink

    Do you know if his donations to PTA were for CCSS specifically? I’ve seen various “trainings” offered to parents.
    And, thanks for this very informative research.

    • PTA: $499,962 is CCSS specific.

      I included a link to a detailed listing in my post– you can view all PTA grants from Gates by accessing that link.

    • karenbracken permalink

      YES. The grants were to promote Common Core. Go to his website and you can find all the grants he gives. Basically he is buying the cash cow known as education. And it doesn’t stop in the US. He also signed an agreement with UNESCO (United Nations) to deliver universal education. Sorry this buy is rotten to the CORE!!!

  2. NY Teacher permalink

    This sounds like the making of a Michael Moore type film expose; or has everyone been bought off?

    • Ellie Wyatt permalink

      First and foremost question: Who asked bill gates to “fix” Public Education? Was there ever a vote? Seriously who gave bill gates the right to mess with our education system, and our children’s lives. This is THE most arrogant stupid man in the history of the world.

      • He’s actually very smart (1590 SAT score), but he’s not been successful thus far in helping in education, so we see your point.

        At the same time, who voted for the US Department of Education to be created? Who voted for Common Core anywhere in the US? In fact, quite the opposite. Our elected US Congress prohibited, by law, the federal government meddling in education. Yet, it was the Obama administration who gave Gates the “in” by tying the federal money to states implementing Common Core. So, also thank Obama and your elected officials in 45+ states who gave way to the Gates money and federal taxpayer money.

      • Nope. The government needs people to do their dirty work so they get in bed with big money people in the private sector to do the governments bidding. And they get to make billions of dollars. It is called corporate Fascism. Public Private Partnerships.

    • Peggy Schwarz permalink

      YES! NCTE, NBPTS, AFT, NEA… I guess it doesn’t really matter if we lose our professional organizations now – since we no longer belong to a real profession!

    • mitchell rubinstein permalink

      Unfortunately, the Right Wing is on the good guy side of this issue, so Michael Moore would have no interest.

  3. This post lays bare my worst fears about this country and the people running it. It demonstrates clearly how far our leaders have institutionalized plutocracy, democracy be damned. The saddest and sickest aspect is that the AFT and NEA would betray their thousands of members on such a fundamental level. You have done a great public service with this writing. This information is invaluable. Thank you. Now it the part of teachers and parents to spread it as wide and far as possible.

  4. Reblogged this on Crazy Crawfish's Blog and commented:
    Gates bought us VAM, an absurdly ridiculous teacher evaluation system; InBloom, an outrageous privacy thief and child slavery evaluation system; and CCSS terrible untested mentally manipulative federal curriculum. Can someone please take away this man’s checkbook? Being obscenly rich does not make you an expert or God. Will everyone please stop treating this college dropout, preaching the importance of college readiness, as One?

    • happymomof2 permalink

      Love your comments! So true. I would love to take away Bill Gate’s checkbook and his God complex. He is single-handedly ruining American schools.

    • Simply Pete permalink

      Love this comment: “Will everyone please stop treating this college [DROPOUT], preaching the importance of college readiness, as One?”. The state of affairs in this country on education “reform” is absolutely mad and frightening.

    • Is it ok to scream, “DITTO!”?

    • But who will take away the Obama and federal government checkbook? It’s already $17B over-drafted. Must be massive check bounce fees.

      • Maybe that’s why the banks have so much influence over their own oversight? Everyone is responsible for that debt. Both sides have to give on their pet spending projects if we want to brig that down, but as long as the status quo rewards both sides for not compromising, it will never happen.

      • Agreed, but my point is that we get worked up over $147m donated by Gates because he’s the big evil capitalist, yet don’t get as worked up enough to stop re-electing the same folks in DC and in our state capitols. While we are throwing out Common Core, remember to also throw out our government over their trillions in overspending.

  5. John Young permalink

    Reblogged this on Transparent Christina.

  6. Cosmic Tinker permalink

    Great work following the money! Thanks so much for this!

    Have you been able to discern the ways that Gates stands to profit from all this manipulation of American education? InBloom might be a good place to start. Like most of the organizations involved, it’s a non-profit. Besides not paying taxes and engendering high salaries for executives, what is the role of such non-profits, such as in driving business to for-profit industries, especially those in which Gates has some stake, like Microsoft?

    • Momma Bear permalink

      I know EXACTLY how he Billy boy stands to profit from this!! I just found out that Microsoft and Pearson are collaborating to bring, “Pearson’s Common Core System of Courses with the groundbreaking capabilities of the Windows-8 touchscreen environment.” Meaning, Gates is set to make back his millions in a back door deal with Pearson to be the education technology used in every single school in America!! Can you say Cha-Ching?!? I say this is a completely unethical practice for Gates & Microsoft to be doing, seeing as Gates pushed so hard for the better education of our kids…Laugh Out Loud.. right! I’m sure he never thought about the fact that his company would have the complete MONOLOPY of the “new” technology our schools needed, what a coinkydink. He is laughing all the way to the bank, people!!

  7. ira shor permalink

    Wow, what a clear presentation of the Billionaire Money driving CC. Gates is an aggressive social engineer to enhance the market potential for Microsoft.

  8. Thank you!

    This is exactly what everyone needs to know. This effort is not state-led. Our education system is being bought by a man whose ego is unbelievable because he thinks that he has the right to tell everyone in the country how to educate their children. He views himself as the savior of the country.

    But the politicians are even worse because they are allowing it to happen. And not just allowing it, but clamoring to be first in line to take his money!

    • “But the politicians are even worse because they are allowing it to happen. And not just allowing it, but clamoring to be first in line to take his money!”

      Absolutely. But also look where the states are getting their money. Most is not from Gates, it is from… you guessed it, the Obama administration and federal taxpayer money. The states lined up because of THAT money. Gates just packaged it up nicely with a bow.

      • Totally agree with this. $3 billion (75%) of RTTT money (federal tax payer money) went to only 6 states.

  9. Reblogged this on Public Conspiracy and commented:
    Bill Gate’s Common Core Spending Audit

  10. George Buzzetti permalink

    Did you all notice how cheaply he bought this power? For nothing in his world of wealth. Pays for lunch in Paris and thats it. The average Koch Bros. contributions for the Tea Party Congress were $5,000 and the highest was $15,000, now thatsa cheapa. $50 mill for organizations and $25.5 mill for institutions and such is a cheap buy for that power and control and the amount then put under control both politically and financially. Great new profit and control centers for those with “Divine Right.”

  11. Neil permalink

    I always wonder why Bill Gates gets so much cred’ with the politicians regarding education? Because he helped create an operating system? What does that have to do with teaching? Much like Windows and Internet Explorer, his ideas are big on marketing and self-promotion. But over time, people are wondering if it was ever that brilliant.

  12. Reblogged this on THE NATURAL FAMILY BLOG, an online journal written by Jenny Hatch and commented:
    A most excellent “Follow the Money” expose of Bill Gates Common Core ties. Read the whole thing, it will make you ill…

  13. karen green permalink

    I knew it all the time.

  14. Peggy Schwarz permalink

    Thanks, Mercedes! Your research has helped so many to get a clear view of the big picture here. I am more hopeful than ever that the general public is finally paying attention & will see through this sham.

  15. Rompin' Rhonda permalink

    Haven’t there been other big money purchases that were backed by one person in our history that were successful? Is this necessarily a bad thing? Consider the CCSS, their depth, the freedom they give teachers in thinking through how to teach and what to teach in order to get to higher thinking. I like the standards; I’ve read them and teach them. I’m not sure I care who is behind them when it’s good reformation of a system that has my kids learning at the knowledge/comprehension level and failing in progress. I would question the legislation and the governance and especially the “canned curriculum” coming forth to answer these new demands.

    • Agree that there is nothing wrong with good standards and curriculum. Unfortunately, in states like Mass. and California, the standards seem to be much worse with CCSS. California, for example, is throwing out 13+ years of improvements and great standards in favor of this clearly inferior system (lots of data on this and I’ve compared CA and CCSS standards myself). With CCSS, there are problems and actual mistakes in the some of the standards. Guess what, there seems to be no process to fix them. If a state wants to change/add things, guess what… it seems they really can’t. Say goodbye to any meaningful control at the state or local level.

      Algebra, one of the strongest predictors of college success, seems to take a big step back with CCSS and some math methods have never been successfully used…. in any country or state. Now, they will be used almost everywhere in every class in ~45 states in America, with teachers and parents struggling along with the kids to use them.

      We also have to look into how we got these and it was a very suspect process indeed. When you look at the process used by the states to evaluate this, it seems to get even worse than what this article exposes.

      Yes, to good local/state standards and curriculum. No to seemingly shady, back-room political deals, money incentives, low transparency and poorly designed and implemented standards.

  16. Great research, thank you. However, if you really want to follow the money trail, where do you think Gates and his foundation got most of their money in the first place?

    Raise your hand if you have ever bought a Windows PC, Microsoft software, an XBOX or have used websites or databases running on Microsoft web servers (maybe even this blog’s Internet servers). Now that everyone reading this article has raised their hands, you can see who is paying for Common Core. Also include those of us taxpayers who are paying the federal grant money. WE are paying for Common Core. The BILLIONS being flushed down the toilet for this failing program really came from all of us. Gates and his foundation are merely stewards of this money. In the end, how sad that our kids will suffer as a result. Still, we must educate parents, teachers and schools about Common Core and continue to turn the tide against it.

  17. Great reporting. Reblogged it at Education Firestorm. (educationfirestorm.blogspot.com).

  18. ARGOXY permalink

    Reblogged this on Inspire Teaching.

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