The American Federation of Teachers, to date the recipient of more than $11 million in Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation largesse, will no longer accept Gates funding, Politico has reported, citing increasing criticism from members.
This is a real case of “put your money where your mouth is”, or in this particular case, “don’t take money from those you speak out against.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is generally known to support more conservative, corporate-style education reforms. These would include favoring school choice and charters, mandatory teacher evaluations including use of value-added data, and connecting businesses and schools. These, generally speaking, are not favored by the large teachers unions, the AFT and the NEA. These organizations tend toward more traditional liberal models of education reform, such as finding ways to bolster current public school systems by empowering students, teachers, and parents to improve their schools. For more on this divide, please see this past blog post: https://www.coreeducationllc.com/blog2/the-gates-foundation-and-the-dilemma-of-teacher-voice/
Also, see a previous post at Education Week: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/11/06/11gates_ep.h33.html
Much of the cash from the Gates foundation to the AFT has supported AFT’s innovation fund, which supports state and local projects. Politico also says that the AFT will seek ways of funding the fund through a dues surcharge, thought to be something like $0.05 more per month, which would have to be approved by members at this year’s biennial AFT convention in Los Angeles. In terms of why now for rejecting future monies, Weingarten says that she has heard enough from AFT members and supporters who feel that the Gates Foundation does not listen to their perspectives. In return, the Gates Foundation expressed dismay that they are losing such a valuable partner in education reform.
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