Skip to content

Laura Chapman on Education Weekly’s “Philanthropic” Funding

September 7, 2014

The post below is from the comments section of my September 6, 2014, post, Gates, Other “Philanthropy,” and the Purchase of a Success NarrativeIt was written by Laura Chapman, veteran arts educator whose well-researched observations on the entangled funding of privatizing reform are often featured on education historian Diane Ravitch’s blog.

Below, Chapman briefly examines the numerous philanthropies whose agendas arguably shape the reporting priorities of Education Week.

I added the links, images, and formatting in order to convert into a full-fledged post what Chapman apologizes for as lengthy commentary.

The degree to which EdWeek shapes its reporting is uncertain. However, one issue is clear: The education news that makes it to public purview is certainly strained through a complex sieve of philanthropic preferences.

I give you Laura Chapman.


Apologies perhaps for a long post.

Gates is not the only player in shaping what the media cover. Education Week, founded in the early 1980s, has a regular circulation of about 50,000.

EdWeek says,

We seek and accept grant funding from the philanthropic community. …

Foundation funding has been instrumental in launching the annual Quality Counts and Diplomas Count reports. Grants also provide the additional resources that enable our newsroom, research center, and Web-production team to produce consistently high-quality, engaging news and information spanning the full range of issues that impact public education. …

Portions of our Editorial Projects in Education are underwritten by 16 individual funders. …

Editorial decision-making and the creation and publication of content—including content produced with support from philanthropic funding—remain in the sole control of Education Week, under the direction of its Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor.


Foundations shape the topics given special attention, especially when it comes to “innovation” and “reform.”


I have not figured out why some of topics being sponsored in EdWeek have the same language. For example,

supports coverage of school climate and student behavior and engagement

is the topic for three foundations–The Atlantic Philanthropies, The Raikes Foundation, and The NoVo Foundation.

supports coverage of educational equity and school reform

is the topic of choice for The HOPE Foundation and The Panasonic Foundation.

Other interests are here, with a few probes on the amount of funding found on websites.

The Noyce Foundation “supports coverage of STEM learning—as part of the traditional school day and in informal settings.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “supports coverage of the education industry and K-12 innovation.” November 2005 
grant,  paid to Editorial Projects in Education, Inc:

Purpose: to research graduation rates at the district level, produce an annual Graduation Counts report in Education Week, and related reports 

Amount: $2,534,757

Term: 48 months

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation “provides partial support for the annual Diplomas Count report on the state of high school graduation and reform efforts.”

Lumina Foundation “supports coverage of the alignment between K-12 schools and postsecondary education.”

Carnegie Corporation of New York “supports coverage of entrepreneurship and innovation in education and school design.”

The Joyce Foundation “supports coverage of policy efforts to improve the teaching profession expanding early-childhood education, and promoting innovations such as charter schools.”

The Walton Family Foundation supports coverage of “parental empowerment and initiatives to spur the bold transformation of the national K-12 system of public education.”

The Ford Foundation “supports coverage of more and better learning time.”

The GE Foundation supports “coverage of implementation of college- and career-ready standards.” As noted by Catherine Gewertz of EdWeek on February 1, 2012:

The GE Foundation’s $18 million common-standards grant, announced this morning, will focus on helping teachers understand the shifts in instruction necessary for the new standards, and will build a storehouse of free resources for them to use.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation “supports coverage of deeper learning.”

The MetLife Foundation supports “’s online Teacher channel.”

The Wallace Foundation “supports coverage of public school leadership, extended and expanded learning time, and arts learning.”

EdWeek reserves it prime “reader space” to a Commentary section that usually draws readers’ comments. For example, the current issue of EdWeek (Aug 27, 2014) published my 300 word comment on a long rant that had been in a prior issue (online July 30, 2014; in print Aug 6, 2014) on the topic, Teachers’ Unions Must Embrace the Future. The author, Leslie C. Francis, is a self-identified “communications expert,” and represented himself as a democrat and former union activist.

The Francis “commentary” drew fire. I focused on his caricature of what unions do. He opined that unions recruit, train, and license teachers, and also decide on the school calendar. He chastised unions for not endorsing the latest gadgets and “innovations.” He even blamed unions for “egg crate schools.” This commentary is one of many examples of polemics that appear without fact checks, with the same tired rhetoric of “blame the unions,” and a blizzard of other distractions from budget cuts, charter school ripoffs, and so on.

This week (August 27, 2014), the prime real estate in the Commentary section of EdWeek, goes to Chester E. Finn, Jr., president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham (among other roles) who pulls Diane Ravitch into the orbit of his reflections on American Education in 2014, (but not beyond a one-liner in the second paragraph). Highlights from his commentary follow.

Finn thinks mayoral control and “recovery districts” are a good idea. He likes the idea of non-educators in positions of leadership. He plugs the content in E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum (Finn sits on the board of Core Knowledge).

He wants fewer teacher education programs and thinks the ratings financed by Gates and published in Newsweek are fine.

He is a fan of charter schools, “choice,” not neighborhood schools and elected school boards.

He thinks technology is great.

He likes “ambitious teacher-evaluation systems,” the “softening of job protections” for teachers along with judging schools by annual achievement tests based on standards, not by the old fashioned method of looking at “inputs.”

He wants more standardized tracking of investments in the education of individual students so resources can follow the students most in need, and the schools they attend. The unstated endorsement is for voucher-based budgeting.

He is concerned about complacency among parents who think their own child’s school is fine even if the larger system is terrible.

He is concerned about complacent reformers who don’t follow up to see if the reforms are working.

He is concerned about “greed” from two sources: teachers’ unions that exist only to look after member’ pay, pensions, and job security; and
venture capitalists/entrepreneurs who only care about profits, not kids.

Not mentioned anywhere: Finn was a founding partner and senior scholar with the Edison Project, the private company set up to operate public schools on a for-profit basis.

From → Guest Posts

  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    You jazzed up my post with pictures. That is not a complaint!
    I don’t know how you and Diane mangage such fast turnarounds on comments and news, but I am grateful as are many others.

    • My pleasure, Laura. Besides, the foundation that pay me millions requires pics. 😉

      Heh, heh, heh….

    • Laura H. Chapman, Thank you for digging deep and exposing this so-called philanthropy from a variety of sources. Your work is making a difference. I am grateful to Mercedes for publishing your piece. (I just subscribed yesterday!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s