Gates Foundation drops ALEC (but why was Bill Gates funding it?)

The good news is that, thanks to a campaign run by Color of Change and Progressive Change Campaign Committee, companies are startng to drop their membership in ALEC, the Hard Right coordinating organization for pushing pre-written bad laws out into the states.

A perfect example of an ALEC-authored law is “Stand and Fire” (aka “Stand Your Ground”), the law that got Trayvon Martin killed in Florida. The Arizona “Imprison the Browns for Profit” law a year or two back is another.

Both were ALEC-written, both at the urging of the industries they would benefit. In the first case, the beneficiary was small-arms manufacturers (fronted by the NRA). In the second case, the beneficiary was a major for-profit prison corp named CCA.

To fully “get” the ALEC operation, read our backgrounder. ALEC is “command-and-control” for the right-wing war in the states.

Here’s a list of companies that were ALEC-affiliated until recently. Notice Coca-Cola, Intuit, and Kraft Foods on the corporate board. Pepsi, Coke’s competitor, is on the corp-support list.

No longer. Those four have or will cancel their ALEC memberships (meaning, their funding of ALEC operations).

That was as of April 6. On April 9 we learn that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will also cancel their ALEC funding, after their current funding runs out (my emphasis and some reparagraphing throughout):

Following Kraft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Intuit, another influential sponsor of ALEC has withdrawn its support from the right-wing corporate front group. … Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Color of Change, among others, had targeted the Gates Foundation for giving more than $375,000 to ALEC over the past two years.

Well that’s nice (sorta — their grant still has 17 months to go).

But wait … the Gates Foundation was funding ALEC? Why? Aren’t they half-way between that wonderful Steve Jobs (blessings be upon him) and that even more wonderful Warren Buffett (likewise)?

In a word, No. There’s a right-wing war to destroy public education, and the Gates Foundation is in the thick of it. Again, ALEC writes the laws that bought-off state legislators get passed. With that in mind, here’s the Gates spokesman explaining their involvement:

“We have made a single grant, narrowly and specifically focused on providing information to ALEC-affiliated state legislators on teacher effectiveness and school finance,” said Chris Williams, the spokesman[.]

And here’s the same thing unpackaged:

The stated purpose of the Gates Foundation grant to ALEC is “to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement.”

On the face of it, this pales in comparison to ALEC’s other education work, which promotes large-scale voucher and privatization schemes that would destroy, not improve, the public education system.

Interestingly, Lee Fang recently reported in The Nation on the various ways that the Gates Foundation and ALEC are working – independently – to promote for-profit distance learning.

These programs typically undermine public schools while benefiting technology and software companies, including Microsoft. The educational value of such programs is also highly contested.

“Efficient state budgets,” “greater student outcomes” and “merit-based teacher evaluation” — sounds like “starve the beast,” “teach to the test” and “no more teacher’s unions” to me.

But maybe Gates just wanted to give Microsoft a piece of that education-destroying “online learning” business:

If the national movement to “reform” public education through vouchers, charters and privatization has a laboratory, it is Florida. It was one of the first states to undertake a program of “virtual schools”—charters operated online, with teachers instructing students over the Internet—as well as one of the first to use vouchers to channel taxpayer money to charter schools run by for-profits. …

Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush, spoke to fellow reformers at a retreat in October 2010. Levesque noted that reform efforts had failed because the opposition had time to organize. Next year, Levesque advised, reformers should “spread” the unions thin “by playing offense” with decoy legislation. …

Levesque wasn’t delivering her hardball advice to her lobbying clients. She was giving it to a group of education philanthropists at a conference sponsored by notable charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. Indeed, Levesque serves at the helm of two education charities, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a national organization, and the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a state-specific nonprofit, both of which are chaired by Jeb Bush. …

“We think that’s so important because every student, regardless of what they do after high school, they’ll be learning online,” said Tom Vander Ark, a prominent online education advocate, on a recently distributed vide
o urging the adoption of online course requirements. Vander Ark, a former executive director of education at the influential Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, now lobbies all over the country for the online course requirement. Like Moe, he keeps one foot in the philanthropic world and another in business.

Hard to tell. Maybe it’s just his love of money, that Mr. Gates, or maybe he’s got a right-wing soul as well. We don’t know for sure, but he’s definitely running with the right-wing heavies.

UPDATE: The comment thread to this post is excellent! It’s not long, and very well informed. I can personally verify how Microsoft does business, and always has. Thanks, all!


To follow on Twitter or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

Share This Post

© 2021 AMERICAblog Media, LLC. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS