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An Open Letter to Bill Gates and a Keynote Challenge

February 17, 2014

Dear Bill,

You don’t know me. I have never applied for one of your fat, corporate-reform-promoting education grants. I am not even tempted to even though I have little money. You see, I am a career public school teacher, and I consider your money wielding a detriment to a healthy democratic society.

You and other philanthropists have given me a lot to write about over the past year. Whereas I have a book in press on the privatization of public education (and yes, you are in that book), most of my writing I have done on this blog for free. Readers can take or leave my work as they choose.

What has been wonderful is that I have an ever-increasing following, not because I have purchased anyone’s favor, but because what I write resonates with my readers.

I am even being offered speaking engagements.

I know that you also garner speaking engagements– likely far more than I ever will. It seems that people think you are an expert because you give them money.

Maybe they feel they owe you keynote spots since you slide them millions.

My first experience with your keynote purchase involved your July 2010 keynote to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Frankly, your opening to that speech makes me ill:

Thank you, Randi, for inviting me here to speak. I want to also thank you and the AFT members for supporting historic reforms in public education. You all have surprised a lot of people lately by launching reforms with a long list of unexpected partners.

Melinda and I are proud to have our names on that list. [Emphasis added.]

I am an AFT member, Bill, and I do not support your “historic reforms.” In fact, in November 2013, I publicly called out AFT President Randi Weingarten in this open letter for taking your money.

I asked her to return it.

She has not done so.

The same month of your AFT keynote– July 2010– you gave AFT’s foundation $4 million  “to support the American Federation of Teachers Innovation Fund and the union’s teacher development and evaluation programs.”

That year on its IRS Form 990,  AFT Educational Foundation reported receiving $6.9 million in contributions and grants– almost its entire total revenue.

So, Bill, in your $4 million grant, you gave AFT Educational Foundation what would equal more than half of its 2010 total funding.

Furthermore, it seems that you are the primary funder of the PBS channel, The Teaching Channel– which just so happens to endorse and promote the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

As education blogger Anthony Cody notes in February 2014, you get to pump money into the reforms of your choice, not the least of which is CCSS. 

In 2013, I wrote a series on your CCSS spending– much of which is used to sell CCSS and push implementation.

You will be happy to know that Randi Weingarten is still pushing your agenda– CCSS implementation down classroom teachers’ throats.

So is National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel. NEA has also taken several millions from you.

When I concluded my series on your CCSS spending, the total was $173.5 million.

And though US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan insists that your money does not buy for you decision making power over American education, I have found that you are even purchasing “restructuring advice” for the USDOE.

So, the latest news is that you are to give a keynote at the 2014 National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

I knew that NBPTS belonged to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but I did not know that you owned it, as well.

Anthony Cody highlights your NBPTS purchase:

The National Board has received several grants from the Gates Foundation in recent years. In 2010, the organization actively participated in the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching project, receiving $1,195,639 to score videos of teaching. 

More recently, The National Board received a Gates Foundation grant in the amount of $3,743,337 “to support revision of the National Board certification process.” …

Given the way in which Gates Foundation grants have influenced organizations that have received them, I wonder if the revised National Board certification process will include the use of student test scores or Value Added metrics as part of teacher portfolios?

The best teacher leadership, just like journalism or any other endeavor that requires integrity, ought to be independent of the undue influence of corporate sponsors, even those willing to whisper praise in our ears. I hope the National Board guards this independence fiercely. 

Regarding your upcoming NBPTS speech, Cody concludes the following:

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has announced that Bill Gates will be a keynote speaker at their 2014 Teaching and Learning conference next month. If this speech follows recent patterns, he will praise teachers to the heavens, while downplaying the ways in which reforms he has advanced have undermined our profession. 

However, Bill, I would like to offer you this challenge:

How about speaking on the destructive influence of unchecked billionaire spending on the democratic foundations of freedom of the press and public education?

It seems that you have a lot to say about how the world should be run.

In January 2012, you even gave this speech in which you identify lack of accountability as a primary cause of state education budget deficits– yet you toss millions around with your opinions attached and are accountable to no one.

Your money is philanthropic cocaine to the organizations accepting your dollars.

Your millions appear to foster a quick addiction in which organizations bend their agendas to suit the stream of your continued millions– to the detriment of their constituents.

It is time for you to be accountable, Bill. Toward this end, the best I have is to call you out on my free blog.

In your 2014 NBPTS speech, break new ground by offering a plan for your own accountability regarding your education reform spending.

Feel free to share your plan with Eli Broad and the Waltons.

Perhaps you might form a philanthropic support group to help each other withdraw from the bored-billionaire addiction to purchasing democracy.

You could be your own “next” project.


Mercedes Schneider

Public school teacher and self-declared “hundredaire”

  1. Love this Mercedes! Thank you for all you do!

  2. John a permalink

    Foundation funding from Gates and his ilk in the ‘reform’ realm, find their analog and further justification in the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizen United case: there is no legal or moral limit to the amount of money that elites may spend to secure their desired outcome, be it political or educational: money is power. For our purposes those realms are come to union in the so called ‘education reform’.

    Gates, Broad, et al have made fundemental decisions on their vision of the future of education. Their fundemental beliefs do not include viable public schools.

    Oh, how I wish your letter would be received, read and comprehended by Bill Gates. But, alas, such will not be the case. The fight to save public schools will continue, as it must, school by school, town by town, city by city, state by state.

    Buckets of money will not suffice to win the war. The radical restructuring proposed by the ‘reformers’ will, eventually , be hoist by its own petard, because it is based on bankrupt educational principles.

  3. Thank you for telling it like it is. Public Education, Public Libraries, and the Post Office are all targets of the privatization corps. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Paul Allen all are laser focused on their respective victims, these modern day ‘robber barons’ are using similar methods . . . they buy their way into influence the citizenry. Hipster Seattle is really just a newer version of Gotham City. Zels Bryan Johnson

  4. permalink

    I want to thank you for standing tall in this fight of Common Core. I have used some of your great research and information to write letters to the editor here in Manatee County Florida. I found it interesting that some in my county are telling know as nice as they can I don’t know what am talking about when it comes to Common Core even though they read the same information as I do. Again thank you for sending me all your thoughts and information. p

  5. Thank you for your “right on target” statement to Bill! The shame is that, if he reads your letter, it will not bother him in the least. However, for us who are teachers, you receive an A+. Keep up the great work. The more open and transparent, (seems like I’ve heard that before), the better off a society is and healthier.

  6. Hannah permalink

    (stands up & claps)

  7. ira shor permalink

    Am forwarding this open letter to the FB page of our parents’ opposition group. Your exposure of the billionaire boys club is very helpful to all of us “hundredaires.”

  8. Darcy B permalink

    Love the term “Philanthropic cocaine!” Keep up the fight. You are one of my trusted sources for factual information. Thank you!

  9. David permalink

    Good stuff. Hubris is authoritarian!

  10. Great post! However, I don’t believe that Gates is simply a ‘bored billionaire’. Rather, he is a socialist with a very intent desire to bend our education system to his socialist views. Common Core lesson plans have included incorrect, ‘adjusted’ history, as well as downright lies about socialism and the results of it’s implementation in other countries. Also, the Common Core standards are destined to break our society into three ‘levels’ or classes. The first will be the children of the rich, who will be educated privately and will receive a much better education. The second will be the higher functioning kids in the public school, who will manage to succeed, despite the dismal Common Core standards. These kids will be destined to be the ‘worker bees’ of the socialist society that Bill and his progressive friends plan to create here.. Lastly, there will be the kids who cannot succeed under the Common Core. These are the non-native speaking kids, the special needs kids, the learning disabled children and the poor kids. These children will fail and be funneled into the lower level “ditch digging” jobs. This is all a part of the socialist ideal (From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.). Don’t be fooled by Gates’ corporate image, he is a socialist, through and through and, like most of those who brought about socialism in other countries, he plans to be one of the people who ends up on the top of this ‘brave new society’ that the progressives hope to bring about.

    • From Wikipedia (for the brevity of the definitions, not the authority of them): “Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy, as well as a political theory and movement that aims at the establishment of such a system.” Bill Gates certainly doesn’t share ownership of his idea with anyone but other 1%-ers as far as I can see, and certainly no “cooperative management of the economy.”

      “Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the goal of making profits in a market economy.”

      That, on the other hand, describes Bill Gates and his ilk to a T.

    • I am curious can you give an example of a country who is socialist? State owned business, health care, education libraries etc.who are doing poorly on freedom and quality of life. Or are homeless low income etc. thanks

  11. Awesome letter! Gates wouldn’t stand a chance even if he attempted to respond to you.

  12. vivcon permalink

    Like he could ever *really* account for what he’s done. Ever.

  13. donald eismann permalink

    You rock! I was a supt in the Seattle area for years (in Billionaire Bills back yard). I am proud of the fact that we turned down his money to “restructure high schools.” We never took a single penny from Gates. I used to call out my colleagues from other districts who would line up for the privilege of sticking their snouts in the trough of Gates money. They didn’t seem to care. The lure of money was too strong. They were willing to do the Gates bidding in “reforming” education in their districts.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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