Co-Chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill Gates’ is PCM’s second most influential education leader for two reasons: the billions of dollars in his Foundation and his longstanding commitment to education. By using his “philanthro-capital," Gates can impact public education policy without needing to be elected and reelected.
His alpha-executive skills, sharpened in the fast-moving business world, get put to nimble use by partnering with political leaders possessing the skills to manage slow-moving government institutions. Gates partnered with Arne Duncan when Duncan was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. He also partnered with Joel Klein, former Chancellor of NYC Education Department, investing 150 million dollars into the city’s reforms. Joel Klein was the lead prosecutor for the Justice Department in the anti-trust case against Microsoft, so they found common ground in education.
The Gates Foundation acts as an R & D unit by funding research to discover the best ways to raise student achievement. To get Gate’s funding, the investment must be scalable and have a financial model that allows it function on public funding after the Foundation withdraws. Since 2000 Gates invested more than 2 billion dollars into “small school” high schools. After a decade the research concluded that, even though high school completion rates improved, student achievement didn’t budge. Undaunted, Gates said, this is what happens in R&D—finding out what doesn’t work makes us smarter and informs our next steps.
In the Foundation’s 2011 Annual Letter, Gates outlined their next two areas of investment—researching the best methods to increase teacher effectiveness and on-line learning technology.