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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.

  1. 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.

  2. Great reporting. Reblogged it at Education Firestorm. (

  3. ARGOXY permalink

    Reblogged this on Inspire Teaching.

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