The Gates Foundation just gave the Reason Foundation nearly a million dollars for education. -Forbes | Team Cansler

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $900,117 grant to the Reason Foundation. The award’s stated purpose is to “ensure that government funding adequately and equitably supports the pursuit of improved educational outcomes for low-income, Black and Hispanic students.”

The Reason Foundation is a think tank whose stated purpose is “to advance a free society through the development, application and promotion of libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets and the rule of law”. They use “journalism and public policy research to influence the framework and actions of policymakers, journalists and opinion leaders”. They favor limited government and pro-market policies.

The Gates Foundation has long advanced educational policies, including funding the ultimately unsuccessful small schools initiative and wide-ranging influence in the creation and implementation of the controversial Common Core State Standards.

According to the Gates database, they have never given a grant to the Reason Foundation before. The two obviously don’t go together; In fact, Reason was extremely critical of the Common Core initiative, which Gates had spent millions promoting.

Reason’s approach to education emphasizes choice, particularly school vouchers. Over the years, they have issued papers to support these market-based strategies, although these papers have not met with enthusiasm from educational policy analysts, who use phrases like “carefully chosen examples designed to support a particular perspective,” “off-the-shelf.” have”, “no credible political document”, “little more than a polemic” and “ruthless and irresponsible”.

It’s not clear what the actual project behind this grant might be. Search the Reason website for “low income students” and you will see many articles about how school choice and voucher programs would improve school for these students. The same applies to a search for “black students”. (“Latinx students” does not appear on the site at all.)

Funding language is also interesting in that it suggests that Reason’s program is not about establishing a program, but about finding ways to influence the path of government funding. The end result of this may not only be spending Gates money, but also spending taxpayers’ money.

The Gates Foundation declared in 2017 that it would spend $1.7 billion to improve public schools (in addition to the $3.4 billion previously spent). 85% targeted public schools, with the remaining 15% targeting charter schools. Part of this was aimed at schools in poor communities. Their focus was on public schools and charter schools (which they also consider public schools).

While $900,000 is a drop in a multi-billion dollar bucket (although it’s a sizable amount for Reason, whose recent 990 form boasts $16 million in total sales for 2019), this new grant seems like one Depicting change from the usual Gates public school leadership. The Reason Foundation has not expressed an interest in improving public schools, but in getting students out of the public system through school vouchers and other voting mechanisms.

Neither the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation nor the Reason Foundation responded to emails asking for more details about the grant. Both those on the right who despise Gates’ interference and those on the left who fear anti-government libertarian machinations will have to wait and see where this new partnership leads.

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