Skip to content

NEA’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia Remains Faithful to Gates Funding

May 18, 2015

On April 26, 2015, education historian Diane Ravitch moderated an hour-long discussion between National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten at the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE).

Only minutes prior to the conclusion of the session, Ravitch “Barbara Waltered” Garcia and Weingarten with the following question:

The Walton, Gates and Broad Foundations are at the forefront of the  privatization movement. Will you commit not to accept funding from them and not to collaborate with them? [56:56]

She then asked for their “yes or no” answers:


Garcia: Yes.


Weingarten: Yes.

A beautiful moment. The audience stood and applauded first for Ravitch’s question and then for the Garcia-Weingarten response.

The session soon ended, and Garcia wasted no time backing out of that one.

In fact, in a blog post  entitiled, “Gates Keepers” dated three days prior to her conference appearance (??) and categorized as , “I just had to say this,” Garcia defended her right to say “yes” and mean “no.” (NOTE: Garcia apparently corrected the date of her post as “May 15, 2015” on May 23, 2015.)

In her oddly-dated post, Garcia attempts to set Gates apart from Walton and Broad. In reality, NEA has no problem with refusing money from Walton because the Waltons hate unions.

As for the Broad Foundation, Garcia criticizes it as “all charters all the time.”

But when it comes to taking cash from the Gates Foundation, Garcia states that Gates is “complicated.”

She might as well have noted that with “all charters all the time” Broad, it is also “complicated” since some NEA locals have accepted Broad funding in the past. But let’s just set that aside for now.

As supposed evidence that Gates can be trusted (and that accepting his money is fine), Garcia cites part of the Gates Foundation website that offers a brochured Gates sell:

We are focused on results. Those that can be measured. And those measured in ways beyond numbers. We see individuals, not issues. We are inspired by passion, and compassion for the wellbeing of people. Our methods are based on logic, driven by rigor, results, issues, and outcomes. Our innovation means trying new things, learning from our mistakes, and consistently refining our approach. Our strategies help us define our path to success, but our effectiveness is based in the aggregate power of our initiatives to impact holistic change.

That is enough for Garcia. She considers Gates trustworthiness as established.

She does not add that the Gates Foundation is clear about making grants “according to our funding priorities” and by directly contacting organizations to invite them to apply for grants under those Gates-determined priorities.

As evidence of Gates’ goodness, Garcia notes that Gates funds “the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (which the NEA helped found).”

Let’s talk about Gates money and National Board.

In March 2014, Gates shelled out $200,000 to help pay for National Board’s conference. Coincidentally, in March 2014, Bill Gates gave a keynote at that same National Board Teaching and Learning conference.

His speech focused on one of his pet investment priorities: the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Gates wants CCSS. He gives millions (billions?) to organizations to implement CCSS.

Gates wants it– he buys it.

That’s not so complicated. But it certainly does afford Gates some power-wielding influence. Indeed, the day before Gates’ speech to the National Board, he dined with 80 senators.

Think about that.

Billionaire Gates has the ear of scores of influential individuals. It’s a great exchange: You give us money; we give you an audience. Another example: in summer 2008, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) President Gene Wilhoit asked Gates to fund CCSS. In November 2010, Gates offered a CCSSO keynote on CCSS. Gates was listed as a CCSSO “co-chair and trustee.”

By way of his wallet, Gates is allowed time and again to voice his ideas on test-score-driven, market-friendly education “reform.”

Since 2003, Gates has given the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) $2.3 million. In 2009, NCSL “co-chair” Gates gave a keynote in which he said, “Without measurement, there is no pressure for improvement.”

Forget learning for learning’s sake. External pressure is required, says expert Gates.

He also urged legislators to lift caps on charter schools.

And of course, Gates did not want to miss an opportunity to plug CCSS as a hub for “measurable” reform:

We need to take two enabling steps: we need longitudinal data systems that track student performance and are linked to the teacher; and we need fewer, clearer, higher standards that are common from state to state. The standards will tell the teachers what their students are supposed to learn, and the data will tell them whether they’re learning it. …

Fortunately, the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative is developing clear, rigorous common standards that match the best in the world. …

This is encouraging—but identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.

It is no secret that NEA is all in for CCSS. So, the fact that Gates is all in is no problem for Garcia. As of May 2015, the Gates Foundation has paid the NGA Foundation $4.6 million for CCSS implementation.

Gates was asked to foot the bill for CCSS before there was a CCSS. Gates agreed. And in the following several years, NEA has raked in upwards $5 million for a CCSS that surely did not originate with NEA. Yet Garcia maintains, “Outside funders don’t drive our mission.We drive funders to our members and their ideas….”


Let’s do another keynote:

In February 2011, Gates gave a keynote to the National Governors Association. One of his suggestions was to lift caps on class sizes. He said that having the “more effective teacher” teach a larger class (from 20 to 26) would be better on the budget– and he said it would produce “better student outcomes.” (See video #2 on the playlist below.)

In addition, it is worth noting that in February 2011, the Gates Foundation gave NGA $1.3 million “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.”

Gates is able to not only pay for his vision of American public education; his money provides him ample keynote addresses to speak his vision to influential individuals. This ability affords Gates a power over American education not to be underestimated.

But Lily Eskelsen Garcia is willing to defend NEA’s continued receiving of Gates funding on a technicality:

NEA doesn’t directly receive the Gates funding. The NEA Foundation does.

And she completely glosses over her verbal agreement at the NPE conference to no longer even collaborate with Gates.

Nothing doing.

Her version of Ravitch’s question is botched on her blog, but the point of her unswerving Gates allegiance is clear:

I was asked at the NPE conference to give a simple answer to a question that is not so simple: Would my union, the NEA, accept Gates grants? The fact is that, no, NEA does not directly take funds from the Gates Foundation. … Our union organized an independent foundation for the very purpose of connecting philanthropists with the creative work of our member practitioners in classrooms across the country. … And in service to those members and those students, we will continue to work with powerful partners, foundations and institutions dedicated to educational innovation, educator empowerment, student health, and parent engagement. Over the years, we’ve helped educators connect with many donors, including the Gates Foundation….

NEA and the NEA Foundation are two peas, same pod. The NEA Foundation is supported in part via NEA membership dues, and Garcia sits on the NEA Foundation board of directors.

Gates money to the NEA Foundation is Gates money to NEA. For example, consider these two July 2013 NEA Foundation grants:

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

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: $2,446,500

This $6.3 million was paid to the NEA Foundation but directed toward NEA members/affiliates.

And, to be clear, Garcia was not asked by Ravitch if her union, the NEA, would accept Gates grants. She was asked to “commit not to accept funding from” Gates “and not to collaborate with” Gates.

To this, she said yes.

But she meant no.

bill gates forbes


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover






  1. LAEducator permalink

    Bill Gates funds anything that promotes Common Core or furthers the use of technology in schools or the population in general. When Bill Gates gave millions to NBPTS around 2010-11, it was apparently the price to get NBPTS to replace NBPTS standards derived from teacher, student, & parent input over two decades with new Bill Gates CCSS-aligned standards borrowed from business. Bill Gates’ philanthropy is all about promoting his “superior” ideas & ultimately – him making more money.

  2. Laura chapman permalink

    Gates is is certain that he is morally and intellectually superior to all of the people who will participate in his grand experiments, in education, banking, medical care. When you look at his global investments, his megalomania becomes even more apparent Warren Buffet’s assets will be added to those of the Gates Foundation. What was he thinking? I hope that the members of both unions elect new leaders and give high priority to the issue of taking of money from foundations who are intent on undermining the profession of teaching.

  3. Why is Bill Gates so invested and revered in a field he has no qualifications? I believe what we are seeing is corporate fascism. Where business and government are in bed with each other. Chosen organizations do what the government is not allowed to do and in return they are hugely rewarded financially. Let’s look at a reason for Gates involvement that not many are talking about. Lets go back to about 2001 when the federal government was threatening to break up Microsoft. Remember that? Gee never happened did it? But what did happen is: in 1984 Ronald Reagan stopped US support ($$$) of UNESCO because of their anti-western propaganda and because they were using US tax payer money to front Communist activities. Then Microsoft was put under the microscope as a monopoly by the federal government. Then in 2003 President Bush (even after a lot of opposition) reunites the US with UNESCO. And in 2004 Microsoft/Bill Gates signs an agreement with UNESCO to deliver universal education with UNESCO writing the teacher syllabus and with Gates promising to support the UNESCO Constitution. He might want to consider supporting the US Constitution but I digress. Nothing is a coincidence in these observations. I believe it explains why Gates is forking over so much money. He is a puppet for the government and the UN. In my opinion he sold his soul and all of our children in order to keep Microsoft in one piece and of course by playing their game he becomes the richest man in the world. Of course his children will never be effected by their father’s insatiable thirst for money and power. Gates, Broad, Walton……….just follow the money folks. Any American that buys ANYTHING from Walmart is every bit as guilty. Do not buy Microsoft products either. This is the only way to stop these criminals. Parents need to evaluate their priorities. Any parent that can must consider home school. STARVE THE BEAST is the only solution we have at this point.

  4. FYI added to my comment…..the final decision on Microsoft came down in 2001 but the case actually started in the late 90’s.

  5. H.A.Hurley permalink

    Mercedes, you are a National Treasure!
    Your blogs and books must be preserved in a time capsule for generations to dig up and know the truth. InCloud storage is in THEIR HANDS and burned to cover their green greedy hands and evil hearts.

    When we have to ask AFT & NEA Presidents what their definition of NO! is, we are not being represented by the right people and possibly the right organizations.
    NO is a complete sentence!
    Having to qualify and quantify all possibilities of how a NO could be a YES…if…once following the Gates & Co. M$, it still leads back to NEA and/or AFT, and we have been manipulated and schtupped again! Gotcha?
    We have enough of these marginal humans harming us and our kids 24/7.
    I would not want to be represented by an organization with such lack of character and ethics.
    Shame, Shame, Shame!

  6. Ken Watanabe permalink

    ‘Gorilla Cookie’ manufactured at Gates Foundation is so delicious and addictive (thanks to artificial sweetener contained in bland electronic socket-shaped pastry.) that persons in the top of big public advocates like NEA president and Randi Weingarten easily lose their sense of ‘taste’ in conscience and ‘choice.’ Just can’t stand to see these products displayed at any academic conference. It’s kind of like seeing PEDs displayed at OTC as if they are sold as generic drugs.

  7. I am truly disappointed by this. I have high hopes for Lily. Her heart seems in the right place, but this certainly undermines trust. I left NPEChicago believing we had a real commitment from defenders of the teaching profession. Now, it looks bad. It’s tough when even our union is co-opted by billionaire money. Broke with integrity seems preferable to the alternative.

    • Michael Fiorillo permalink

      I don’t know where her heart is, but if she’s accepting Gates money, I know where her head is: someplace where the sun don’t shine.

  8. Keep after em, Mercedes, keep after them!

    Thank you for the tireless and, unfortunately necessary, ceaselessness in exposing the lying liars for what they are! A true muckraker!


  9. Hannah permalink

    NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! 😦

  10. retiredbutmissthekids permalink

    Thanks for your tireless investigating, fact-finding & genuine, old-fashioned muckraking no longer done by most “journalists.” I, too, was at the N.P.E. w/several colleagues &, unlike tultican, we were underwhelmed by both Lily & Randi. Must say, though, that Randi did send a “thank you” from the AFT to be signed & sent to John Oliver for his great piece on testing. As for Lily/NEA? Nada…zip.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Dad Gone Wild | UNION STRONG
  2. A billionaire walks into a bar… | Reclaim Reform
  3. 2015 Medley #19 | Live Long and Prosper
  4. Under the Ravitch Umbrella | Live Long and Prosper

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