Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

I’ve written many articles about private and corporate foundations and the world of good they have been doing for schools in our country. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, though controversial, is one of those sources of funds.

If you watch streaming TV, you’ve seen “Breaking Bad” with Walter White, dying chemistry teacher who becomes a drug manufacturer (long story). You will recall the conundrum he faced when trying to get rid of all the money, bags and barrels of it. Likewise, a company like Microsoft may face some similar challenges.

Bill Gates left his job as head of the company in 2000. That same year he established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, so he could pursue interests outside the software industry. The Foundation provides grants for many useful projects like eliminating malaria, but they have also defined a role as a change agent in public education.

In their own words:

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to ensuring that all students in the United States have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. We have two programs that work in concert toward this goal. Our College-Ready Education program aims to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college, and our Postsecondary Success program aims to dramatically increase the number of young people who obtain a postsecondary degree or certificate with labor-market value. Areas of intersection include practical approaches and policy strategies to better align K-12 standards with expectations in college-level courses.”

Both initiatives have provided grants for schools and school districts. It’s the last sentence in the description that has raised the most eyebrows. Some say, “What business is it of corporate interests to be influential in curriculum and setting of standards”? Indeed, we need to be reminded it was corporate interests that raised the alarm about our schools in the first place. Nevertheless, they are creating funding opportunities for schools that embrace new technologies and innovations in teaching and learning. The foundation is investing in tools for learning online and using Internet technologies to advance these strategies.

Schools that wish to find a coattail for this generosity can visit the grant opportunities site. One that jumps out at me is, “School Networks for Evaluating and Improving the Efficacy of Digital Courseware“. You may want to investigate this with an eye to becoming a change agent in your community for bringing your school(s) into the 21st Century.

Be advised that Gates Foundation grants are very competitive and hard to get. It may require an investment of a couple of years, with your best administrators as partners, to get it off the ground. However, the rewards are obvious. The Foundation can provide continuing support once the funds are spent. It’s important to know how they make grants and select recipients. It’s a complicated process.

Additional information concerning recent grant awards:

Another pervasive criticism has been a perception that the foundation supports charter schools to the exclusion of others. It’s up to you to decide.

Be prepared for a big project with big rewards (if successful).

Let me know how you’re doing. You may network with me by leaving a comment below.


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About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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