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Who Does Gates Fund for “General Operating Support”?

May 24, 2015

On its website, the Gates Foundation makes it clear that it often initiates contact with organizations to apply for specific grants and that it does not fund what it does not consider a Gates Foundation “priority.”

The assertiveness of the Gates Foundation in funding its approved version of education reform takes on head-tilting meaning when one considers the organizations that Gates funds “for general operating support.”

That means that the Gates Foundation has decided to that it wants to keep such organizations in business. So, it gives them money to stay afloat, like Dad shelling out an allowance to the kids.

There is no greater opportunity for fiscal dependence on the Gates Foundation than for an organization to receive Gates money for general operating expenses– especially in the case of repeated operating support grants. Note also that the Gates Foundation pays its grants in installments, and it sure can become easy to get used to those regularly-arriving payments to help with salaries and other expenses.

Then comes the layer of dependence known as being part of the Gates-endorsed, corporate reform “in crowd”– an open door to additional fiscal and political opportunities for those willing to travel the route of test-score-driven education privatization.

On the Gates “awarded grants” search engine, the keywords “general operating support” yielded 1000 results. Some of these are duplicates (that is, multiple operating support grants to the same organization), and many are outside of the field of education.

Let us consider Gates’ grant payouts to education-styled organizations, especially those that have received more than one Gates-directed, operating-support grant or that have received the larger operating-support grants in the last few years.

Let’s start with Gates operating support to charter schools and related organizations.

Most recent on the Gates operating support payout list is the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) for $800,000 in April 2015. In March 2012 and September 2010, Gates gave CCSA $1 million for general operating support each time.

Two of the largest Gates grants toward charter schools were for $3 million each, one in June 2014 and one, in June 2012, to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (total $6 million).

The largest single grant was for $5.5 million, to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), in November 2007.

In October 2009, NAPCS received $500,000 that was more to the point: “to provide general operating support for continued growth of the charter industry.” NAPCS’s first Gates grant for operating support was for $50,000 July 2006.

In November 2014, Gates paid $199,767 to the Puget Sound Educational Service District “to support the development and implementation of and to provide back-office support and operations support services for public charter schools in Washington state.” Also in Washington state and receiving Gates money for operations was the Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter High School ($9,700 in October 2008).

Other charter school entities receiving Gates money for operating support include the Texas Charter Schools Association ($250,000 in May 2009 and $650,000 in May 2010); the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools ($450,000 in April 2011 and $200,000 in November 2012); the Georgia Charter Schools Association ($250,000 in October 2012); the Illinois Network of Charter Schools ($600,000 in September 2011), and the New York City Charter School Center ($950,000 in September 2010). Also on the list: the Charter School Leadership Council ($800,000 in January 2006) and the Charter Schools Policy Institute ($200,000 in January 2006).

And now, moving beyond Gates charter school sustenance and expansion funding:

Other notable corporate reform entities receiving Gates money for operating support include Common Core State Standards (CCSS) mouthpiece, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with an established Gates-money operating-support relationship in the form of three grants, and all after CCSS made its June 1010 debut: $500,000 in June 2011; $1 million in April 2013, and a fresh infusion of $1.1 million in April 2015.

The Fordham Institute is inextricably connected to the Fordham Foundation, which had $52 million in total assets at the end of 2013, according to the Fordham Foundation 2013 990. So, taking operating support from Gates for the Fordham Institute appears to be a matter of taking the cash because the cash was offered.

Political alliance cement in the name of “We’ll be able to do so much more.”

Then, there’s very pro-CCSS organization, Children Now, with an executive vice president hailing from education privatization strategic center, McKinsey and Company. Gates paid Children Now $700,000 toward operating support in March 2015.

Pro-CCSS-test-score-focused Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (TNSCORE) has also received its share of Gates operating support: $2.3 million in January 2015; CCSS-lesson conduit, the Teaching Channel: $2.5 million in November 2014 to follow a healthy $7 million in June 2013; and Teach Plus, a fine slice of general operating support pie, $7.5 million in October 2014.

In seven states and DC, Teach Plus actively promotes both CCSS implementation and the message to “opt in” with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. It even has a survey showing that Massachusetts teachers want PARCC over the state MCAS.

Why, it would be quite the Gates oversight not to dole out multiple millions to keep Teach Plus going.

That noted, no organization comes close to receiving the amount of Gates funding just to keep the doors open as does Education TrustSince 2002, Ed Trust has received $31.4 million from Gates in the form of eight grants.

Ed Trust has been influential in such amazing test-score-driven reform wonders as helping to draft No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and, along with Fordham Institute and Achieve, promoting CCSS-and-common-assessments precursor, the American Diploma Project (ADP).

Gates also pays operating support to former West Virginia governor Bob Wise’s Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE). Interestingly, Gates did not send the big money to AEE until after there was a CCSS: $500,000 in July 2003; $2.5 million in October 2012 and $3.5 million in August 2014. On its site, AEE describes itself as “a respected advocate for the Common Core State Standards.”

An organization new to me on the Gates allowance gravy train is the Minnesota-based Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network. PIE Network is a Who’s Who of corporate reform; its board of directors includes Cynthia Brown from the Center for American Progress (CAP); Christine Brown from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) (in Gates’ backyard of Seattle, Washington); Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children (SFC); Kati Haycock of the Education Trust; Jeb Bush right hand, Patricia Levesque of the Foundation for Excellent Education (FEE); Deborah McGriff of NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF), Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, and Jamie Woodson of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).

PIE Network executive director Suzanne Tacheny Kubach is a former board chair of KIPP Academy Minneapolis. Her husband, Doug Kubach, is the president of Pearson’s School division. (I reference Doug Kubach in this May 2015 Pearson post.)

On its 2011 990, PIE Network’s greatest expense was some “spring executive meetings” described as “candid, closed-door meetings that are held to connect leading innovators with their peers in other states, enabling the spread of ideas and information about school reform.” The description of PIE Network intention continues in another section:

The annual policy summit brings together the nation’s leading education innovators in an intimate setting designed to foster discussion and build relationships. Network members are able to bring several guests from their state, which allows them to build powerful teams that can tackle reform challenges. In 2011, guests included state department of education officials, including a state schools chief.

An effort to weave corporate reform into the fabric of state departments of education.

On its 2013 990, PIE Network includes no such “candid” details about its operations.

In July 2014, Gates funded PIE Network operations for $1.5 million.

Another curious Gates general operating support grant was this June 2014 grant for $24 million to the Bloomberg Family Foundation. What strikes me is that three months later, in September 2014, the Bloomberg, Walton, and Broad Foundations decided to finance pro-corporate-reform blog, Education Post– along with a mystery donor.

It may be nothing. Just noticing, is all: Education Post is trying hard to push the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and it might not look too good if the billionaire who agreed in 2008 to bankroll CCSS is also financially supporting a pro-CCSS blog that offers supposed “honest, straight talk” absent any “playing politics.”

If my thoughts are off base, Education Post CEO Peter Cunningham should feel free to set me straight with some of that “honest, straight talk” regarding the specifics on that mystery funder.

Next on the list of hefty Gates operating support money to education organizations is Lumina Foundation-founded, Maryland-based Achieving the Dream, a “national reform network” specializing in “institutional change,” “policy reform,” “sharing knowledge,” and “engaging the community” in order to “close achievement gaps and accelerate student success nationwide” for community college students.

In December 2012, Gates paid Achieving the Dream $646,000 toward general operating support, and in May 2014, Gates increased that amount by another $2.4 million.

That takes care of 2014-15 Gates operating support to education and “education-ish” organizations.

Here are some notable organizations that have received Gates operating support in 2013. (Note that a 2013 Gates grant could still be paid in installments in 2015):

Those interested in systematically investigating Gates grants for operating support paid out up through 2012 can start their investigation here.

For now, I am done.

However, allow me to offer this observation in closing:

In her defense of choosing to continue accepting Gates funding, National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia insinuates that accepting Gates money “is complicated” since Gates appears to fund “a spectrum” of education (or education-styled) organizations.

In my post dated May 18, 2015, I take issue with Garcia’s unabated plan to accept Gates funding for NEA despite her April 25, 2015, Network for Public Education (NPE) public statement indicating otherwise.

And in this current post, I close with an observation regarding Gates’ doling out millions to favored “education” organizations for general operating support:

On the Gates grants search engine, the keywords, “general operating support school” yielded 80 results.

Three times, Gates supported traditional public schools. All three grants were for Seattle Public Schools$500,000 in March 2001; $850,000 in May 2006, and $1000 in May 2013.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does not consider general operating support to traditional public schools to be among its funding priorities.

Not at all complicated.



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. pauleck47 permalink

    I think Gates is a tax evader. Look at page 16-17 in David Cay Johnston’s book, “Perfectly Legal”. Evidence leads one to conclude that Gates set up a short term charitable trust to evade taxes and then put the money into his foundation thus creating a tax write-off. So, Gates is essentially using money that should have went to taxes to fund his attack on the public schools. Gates is a predatory philanthropist.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    The Gates Foundation website is a treasure trove of information. Off in one corner you will see how the foundation is operating as bank. The Gates Foundation is only one on many foundations that are not bothering with local school board elections. They by-pass that step.
    The following programs are different from the Gates foundation grants, but often work in tandem with the “regular” grants from the foundation.

    These bond-backing and loan programs are building the infrastructure for a dual system of education, with the covering narrative of helping low-income and minority students.

    The financial aims are pretty clear– “ensure the long-term stability of CMOs (charter management organizations) as well as signal charter sector soundness and support to capital markets,” “catalyze other private capital to fund innovation.” And, they are intended to forward real estate deals enabling the “expansion of high-performing charter seats to fill voids in a city’s educational inventory.
    Here are the current bond-backing and loan programs from the Gates Foundation.
    CHALLENGE High-performing Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) needed to access bond markets after the market collapse of 2008. Bonds issued on behalf of charter schools are perceived as a higher risk than those issued on behalf of traditional public schools, but usually receive less funding for facilities. General market challenges after 2008 further restricted financing options for CMOs
    CMOs are critical partners in developing and demonstrating new approaches to achieve better outcomes for all students in the broader education system. We aim to eliminate financing disparities between traditional public schools and charter public schools to ensure the long-term stability of CMOs as well as signal charter sector soundness and support to capital markets.
    PARTNER KIPP Houston
Top-ranked school system serving low-income students as part of a larger, national network Foundation Focus: provide affordable facility financing to high performing CMOs
    INVESTMENT Partial backstop guaranty on partners’ bonds 
Date: October 2009 
Co-Guarantors: Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
Associated funding: grant to LISC to serve as financial intermediary Source The following programs are also at this website.

    CHALLENGE Academically strong charter schools face substantial obstacles in obtaining affordable commercial financing. Charter schools receive on average 80% of student funding that traditional schools in the same district receive. They also typically have to finance their own facilities.
    PROGRAM STRATEGY The foundation seeks to increase the number of academically strong seats in charter networks that serve students of color and low-income populations. We seek to build capacity by leveraging other funding sources, both public and private and increase the number of students graduating from high school college-ready.
    PARTNER Charter School Growth Fund
 Non-profit organization focused on supporting high performing charter management organizations. Foundation focus: provide high performing charter schools with facility financing

    INVESTMENT Low Interest Loan
Date: February 2012
Co-investors: Broad Foundation, Walton Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Associated funding: None

    CHALLENGE High-performing Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) needed to access bond markets after the market collapse of 2008. Bonds issued on behalf of charter schools are perceived as a higher risk than those issued on behalf of traditional public schools, although charter schools usually receive much less funding for facilities. General market challenges after 2008 further restricted financing options for CMOs
    PROGRAM STRATEGY CMOs are critical partners in developing and demonstrating new approaches to achieve better outcomes for all students in the broader education system. Our goal is to eliminate financing disparities between traditional public schools and charter public schools to ensure the long-term stability of CMOs. We also want to signal charter sector soundness and support to capital markets.
    PARTNER Aspire Public Schools 
Top-ranked large charter school system in California serving predominantly low-income students Foundation Focus: provide affordable facility financing to high performing CMOs


Partial backstop guaranty on partners’ bonds 
Date: April 2010 
Co-Guarantors: Schwab Foundation and NCB Capital Impact 
Associated funding: grant to NCB Capital Impact to serve as financial intermediary

    CHALLENGE Teachers serving low income and minority students lack professional development tools to increase instructional effectiveness. Upgrading enterprise and school level technology platforms to provide appropriate performance data, analysis and delivery of professional development content will require significant resources
    PROGRAM STRATEGY Support teachers to improve their instructional practice through redesign of systems for teacher evaluation, feedback and professional growth and development. Use PRIs selectively to strengthen the market for technology enabled content and tools that support improving instruction and catalyze other private capital to fund innovation that meet teacher and student needs.
    PARTNER BloomBoard, Inc.
 Software-as-a-service education technology company providing states, districts and schools with innovative tools to improve teacher effectiveness
    Foundation focus: Teacher assessment dashboard for teachers and administrators as well as professional development content marketplace
    INVESTMENT Series A-2 Preferred Equity 
Date: September 2013
Co-Investors: Birchmere Ventures, Learn Capital and individual investors
Associated funding: None

    CHALLENGE Central Falls was unable to fund maintenance or expansion of high quality school seats. The economically poorest and most densely-populated city in Rhode Island had limited space for new schools. The bankrupt city had limited funds to repair current structural problems.
    PROGRAM STRATEGY Extending affordable facilities financing to charter schools located in districts attempting to increase district-charter collaboration. As part of the district-charter collaboration program, cities with under-utilization provide district-owned facilities to charter schools. This win-win solution allows for the expansion of high-performing charter seats to fill voids in a city’s educational inventory.
    PARTNER Civic Builders, Inc.
 Non-profit charter school facilities developer focused on urban neighborhoods Foundation focus: Renovating unused district-owned assets to expand high-performing seats
    INVESTMENT Loan fund: providing low-interest, subordinated debt
Date: February 2013
Co-Investors: Equity from Civic Builders and senior debt from other financial institutions Associated funding: None

  3. stefananders323323 permalink

    So what happens to all that money? How and on what is it spent? Have you written a post on that?

    • That’s just it: gen op support goes wherever. No specific designation.

      • ira shor permalink

        Brilliant expose of the Gates privatization octopus. Your research reveals just how important the dismantling of public education and teacher unions is to the billionaires like Gates, Bloomberg, Waltons, Koch, etc. This phenomenal investment in CCSS and private charter development succeeds b/c the billionaires have also captured govt and the leaders of the teacher unions, Eskelsen and Weingarten. This leaves only mass opposition from below like the parental Opt-Out movement as a means of stopping the Gates attack. Parents are moving in that direction but we will need a teacher wildcat opt-out to bypass Eskelsen and Weingarten to win this fight.

  4. I am wondering about the day to come when Gates and Co have all the charter schools they want. There will be no need to hand out any more money, especially for “General operating Support”. Oh dear !

  5. TNSCORE needs to be taken down. They employ scum. One such scum filed bankruptcy just before he got married. And after purchasing a $7000 engagement ring for his pregnant girlfriend. His debt was $1 million. How does a small town country boy amass that kind of debt??

  6. Gates also gave start up money to DigiLearn, which is the retirement cushion of former NC Governor, Bev Perdue.

    DigiLearn is working arm in arm with Tom Vander Ark, who is the former Gates Foundations Education director and is now on a cushion of his own pushing ‘digital learning’ through his company, “Getting Smart”

    Vander Ark was also laying the groundwork years before the Core came along during another Gates funded and driven project: the redesigned high school.
    (See more:

  7. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thanks for the Update.

  8. Reblogged this on stopcommoncorenys.

  9. Reblogged this on Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé and commented:
    What Bill Gates is doing with his grants that support corporate education reform in industry wide hostile takeover of the public schools and democracy is no different than the welfare system the United States once had that paid people not to work. Someone should tell Bill Gates that welfare reform under President Clinton ended the cradle to grave welfare industry for individuals even though welfare reform never ended a similar system for corporations.

    Bill Gates is creating a co-dependency for corporate education reformers that is no different than being a drug addict addicted to crack cocaine, and crack cocaine addicts have been know to sell their own bodies and children to get their next fix. But what Bill Gates is doing is enabling these addicts to sell our own children to get their next fix.

  10. Ken Watanabe permalink

    Gates’ money is bartered for gorilla cookie. He is an architect of ‘Walking Dead’ featuring thousands of corporate reform zombies in day time (yes, they have sunlight-proof).

  11. James permalink

    Perhaps I’m on the wrong blog. I followed a link here from another blog that I enjoy. You may have made a case against charter schools in previous blog posts (or in one of the two books advertised above). The only thing I see established in this post is that the Gates Foundation supports charter schools and Common Core. This is then followed with a closing that implies (1) this is a bad thing and (2) Gates does not support public schools. Readers’ subsequently commence bashing Gates in the comments. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of billionaires, tax evaders, or even Microsoft. But… I don’t get it.

    Just to be clear, my comment is likely to be out of sync with the rest that have been posted, but I do not necessarily disagree. I am posting, because (1) the blog post seems to fail to address the issue even-handedly, (2) I’m wondering if I’m missing something, and (3) I want to understand.

    First, and perhaps foremost, there is a disconnect here that is not addressed in the post. In my admittedly limited understanding, charter schools are
    public schools and, as such, do not–cannot–charge tuition and students do not have to live within any district limits in order to attend a charter school. A major difference between charter schools and other public schools is that decisions regarding pedagogy, curriculum, hiring, etc. are all made locally, at the site (or group of sites) level, rather than the district, state, or federal level (See Nonetheless, charter schools are subject to the same requirements regarding standardized testing and “must operate within the provisions of state and federal law. They must abide by health, safety and civil rights laws, and cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin” (See

    Second, I cannot comment on funding in all states and do not have the time to research them all, but in California, “public school funding follows the student, with the funding going to the public school the parents choose, including a charter school. When charter public schools are funded, there is no overall loss of public school money because charter schools are public schools.” And, interestingly, “even with the funding “following the student” charter schools receive less funding for each student than a school district would if it were to serve the same student” (Again, see, which might explain why the Gates Foundation is motivated to support charter schools through operating support grants. The post (as it acknowledges) focuses almost exclusively on operating support grants. No facts concerning total education funding are provided.

    Third, it’s not as if everyone is happy with the state of public schools or the way the federal and/or state government are administrating them. “Gallup has asked U.S. adults about their satisfaction with education since 1999, including each August since 2001, as part of its annual Work and Education poll. The high of 53% satisfaction was reached in 2004, the only year more Americans were satisfied with education than dissatisfied.” That level of satisfaction decreased relatively steadily until 2010, when it was 43%. “Satisfaction,” incidentally, includes both “completely” and “somewhat” satisfied. Since 2010, the level of satisfaction has increased relatively steadily to 48% in 2014, the last available result. The same results show 49% are dissatisfied (again, “completely” and “somewhat”). Admittedly, the level of satisfaction is higher among American parents with children in grades K-12 than among Americans in general (See, but, as one of those parents and as a program evaluator who sometimes works in K-12 settings, I can tell you that many of those “satisfied” answers are qualified with things like “given the circumstances,” referring to governmental funding and control over the curriculum. So, I’m at a loss as to what is so obviously (to everyone here, apparently) wrong with charter schools or with someone supporting them.

    Finally, and this is a relatively minor point, the blog post cites grants awarded for a very small part of the foundation’s expenditures. I didn’t tally everything, but the awards listed run from 2002 through 2014 and probably do not exceed $50 million ($50,000,000) versus the $3.9 billion ($3,900,000,000) total awarded in 2014 alone. These grants are in support of things like polio, malaria, and other immunization programs, food and farming programs (including Heifer international, which received praise from Michael Scriven, which, if you know the evaluation field, is high praise indeed), computing infrastructures in developing countries, economic improvements in developing countries, public radio, and so on. So, while I still wouldn’t necessarily count myself as a Gates fan, I find it very difficult to be a Gates basher.

  12. James permalink

    Just FYI, the Washington Post has a fairly even-handed story on Gates’ funding of Common Core, and it’s potential links to business interests. The whole article is interesting, but I include here just one point, related to my concern of putting the charter operating support funding in context. “Since 1999, the Gates Foundation has spent approximately $3.4 billion on an array of measures to try to improve K-12 public education, with mixed results.” Again, I didn’t tally the $ listed in this blog post, but I’m guessing it doesn’t rise (much) above $50 million since 2002, compared to $3.4 billion since 1999. If we adjust (roughly) for the 3 years between 99 and 02, that’s about $50 million out of $2.72 billion–about 18% of what the foundation awarded to education in general. So, we’re missing 82% of the story.

  13. Angela permalink

    Private Foundations are prohibited by law from providing general operating support to government agencies (i.e. public schools/districts).

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