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How Money Talks

Susan Notes:

The corporate and political entanglements of the Gates and Broad Foundations are well documented. The Wallace Foundation is not so well known but a study of its grant giving offers an informative glimpse into how a corporate-politico agenda traveling with philanthropic ID operates. As Kenneth Saltman has documented, venture philanthropy (I prefer to call it vulture philanthropy) "treats schooling as a private consumable service and promotes business remedies, reforms, and assumptions with regard to public schooling." And worse.

The report below is cut short because the list of Wallace grantees stopped working when I hadn't even gotten through the ABCs of their list. I wonder how they knew what I was up to.

by Susan Ohanian

Richard Laine is the director of Education Programs at the Wallace Foundation, most specifically of their LEADERS Count initiative. Before coming to Wallace he was Director of Education of the Illinois Business Roundtable (IBRT). To set a context for Wallace grant-giving, know that Wallace published School Turn Around Field Guide, which identifies the problem of "the dearth of principals trained in how to transform an inadequate school into a successful one." I've had the occasion to speak of the error of their ways before.

This report was written in September 2010 by FSG Social Impact consultants, whose featured clients include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pfizer, and NewSchools Venture Fund. Here are a few more clients:

David & Lucille Packard Foundation
William & Flora Hewlett Foundation
W. K. Kellogg Foundation
General Electric
Goldman Sachs
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Chicago Public Schools
DC Public Schools
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association
New Schools for New Orleans
New York City Leaderhsip Academy
Newark Charter School Fund
Stanford University

Getting nervous yet?

Gene Bottoms, co-author of another Wallace report, received the 1995 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.

Research Findings to Support Effective Educational Policymaking: Evidence and Action Steps for State, District and Local Policymakers, a document put together by the Wallace Foundation, leads off with this quote:

"Great principals attract great talent. They nurture that great talent and they develop that great talent. Bad principals are the reverse: bad principals don't attract good talent, they run off good talent. They don't find ways to improve those that are trying to get better. They don't engage the community."
-- U.S. Education Secretary Arne L. Duncan, addressing The Wallace Foundation's
National Conference on Education Leadership, October 2009.


"If our 95,000 schools each had a great principal, this thing would take care of itself."
-- U.S. Education Secretary Arne L. Duncan, addressing The Wallace Foundation's National Conference on Education Leadership, October 2009.

Try to follow the origins of many of the research resources quoted and you will find yourself in a dizzying loop of grantees of the Wallace Foundation. But let's take a look at just a few grantees in the three fields highlighted by Wallace.

The Wallace Foundation describes the categories of grant in which they put their money:

Organizations that work with us to develop and test potential solutions to important public problems;

Organizations that conduct research to contribute to field knowledge and evaluate what is and is not working; or

Organizations that help us in communications by getting issues and solutions before those who can help effect change.

Using these categories as a way to group a few of their grant recipients, here's what we see. NOTE: When I see something going on in one state, it makes me wonder about the other 49, but because Wallace's grantee search function wasn't workiing, I didn't check it out. This malfunction is also the reason, the money amount of some grants is missing.


Advance Illinois: 2009: $300,0000

Their banner reads Every Student World Ready and their recent activities have included:

  • Sharing 'best practices' [sic] from Chicago Turn Around Schools;

  • Commissioning a report by National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) to show that the bar has not been set high enough for preparing Illnois teachers;

  • Supporting Senate Bill 7;

  • Advance Illinois' board members include Dennis Hastert, longtime House Speaker, and Edward B. Rust, Jr. Chairman and CEO, State Farm Insurance Co.--both with close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). As ALEC Exposed points out, "Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line." I would add that ALEC also makes big statements on education policy.

    Advance Illinois' National Advisory Council reads like a Who's Who of other Wallace grantees:

    New Teacher Project: president
    Achieve: executive vice president
    Education Trust: president
    The Wallace Foundation: director of education Programs
    Massachusetts Business Alliance for Educaiton: Managing Director.

    Connecticut State Department of Education: Common Core of Leading Report, 2009

    Year-Round Schooling:

    Funders of National Center on Time and Learning include:
    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Ford Foundation, Gabrieli Family Foundation, Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Noyce Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

    The Wallace Foundation commissioned Education Sector to write report on the 2011 national forum Reimagining the School Day: More Time for Learning, and Wallace has been talking about it and Tweeting about it ever since.

    DEVELOPING POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: The Common Core and other Initiatives Involving "Rigor":

    Aspen Institute: $100,000

    Council of Chief State School Officers (since 2001): $19,448,000

    New York State Regents Research Fellows
    In announcing a $892,500 grant for Common Core planning from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the press release the New York State Education Department mentioned that the the Regents Research Fellows will provide the Department with supplemental expertise and research--and they are funded by the Wallace Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation.

    NASBE and Friends:
    Since 2000, the Wallace Foundation has dedicated more than $145 million to strengthen education leadership. The national consortium is composed of the five major state education-based organizations: the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Education
    Commission of the States, the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National Association of State Boards of Education.

    National Education Summit on High Schools, 2005
    The Wallace Foundation joined with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Prudential Foundation and the State Farm Foundation to kick in $42 million for more high school rigor.


    Philanthropies are beginning to understand the power of movies, and the Wallace Foundation is no exception. What's interesting here is they don't just want you to watch the hour-long film. they want to be sure you derive the right message from it.

    Nomadic Pictures: produced The Principal Story, broadcast on PBS> They recommend using The Leadership Performance Planning Worksheet in connection with this film (financed by the Wallace Foundation):
    NYC Leadership Academy offers the Leadership Performance Planning Worksheet, a critical anchor for principal coaching and support programs. Developed by the NYC Leadership Academy in consultation with The Wallace Foundation and representatives of the state education departments of Delaware, Missouri and Kentucky, the worksheet is used in a growing number of states and school districts across the country to support and promote principal growth. It is the result of a thorough review and synthesis of principal leadership protocols used nationally.

    What you need to know about the Leadership Academy is that neutron Jack Welch was their first appointed advisor. The Broad Foundation kicked in $4 million to help out--and demonstrate its faith in then-Chancellor Joel Klein. If you have the stomach for it, you can find out lots more by putting "Leadership Academy" into a search on this site.

    Okay, that's just one film with associated worksheets. In matters of organizations that help the Wallace Foundation in communications by getting issues and solutions before those who can help effect change, take a look at the big player.

    Kentucky Educational Television put up a website as a resource center for principal training, "part of an outreach campaign to enhance Kentucky's education reform progress, focusing on the importance of school leadership and principal training." Funded by the Wallace Foundation and featuring the Wallace-funded movie. And worksheets. Check what's happening in your state.

    Editorial Projects in Education [Education Week: $2,765,000 (since November 2003)

  • In One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Education Standards, I offered extensive discussion of Education Week bias on the subject of education standards.

  • In 2008, David Marshak, Philip Kovacs, Susan Ohanian, Jerry Bracey, William Spady, and Deborah Meier sent a letter to the editors of Education Week, calling on them to adhere to basic ethical standards of journalism in future publications.

  • In 2010, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting published "Who gets to speaks about what schools need? Race to the Top and the Bill Gates Connection," which reveals the press bias on just who is an education expert. Education Week is a big player here.

    Clearly, money talks much louder than words. Education Week is not secret about this. Those who look can find this statement: [P]ortions of our work are underwritten by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the GE Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the MetLife Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, and the Wallace Foundation.

    What readers need to ask is how often Ed Week reporters can bite the hand that feeds them. How often and how deep.

    — Susan Ohanian



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