Seeking cash for educational innovations from the world’s largest private philanthropy? Better hurry up. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation won’t be around forever.
The Seattle-based foundation, which has given well over $1 billion for K-12 schooling, aimed mainly at high schools, said Nov. 29 that it will spend all of its resources within 50 years after the last of its three trustees dies. Bill Gates is now 51; his wife, Melinda, is 42; and billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett is 76.
“The decision to focus all of our resources in this century underscores our optimism for making huge progress and for making sure that we do as much as possible, as soon as possible, on the comparatively narrow set of issues we’ve chosen to focus on,” a foundation statement said. The Gates endowment stood at about $32 billion as of August, a figure that included a $1.6 billion first installment of an estimated $30 billion that Mr. Buffett plans to give the philanthropy.
The foundation was set up in 2000 with some of the fortune Mr. Gates made as co-founder of Microsoft Corp.
The foundation plans to ramp up annual spending to about $3.5 billion by 2009, though a Gates official has said education is unlikely to see big increases.
Gates also announced plans last month to create a new structure that will “cleanly” separate the philanthropy’s program work from the investment of the foundation’s assets. The change came partly in response to the announcement by Mr. Buffett that he would donate much of his fortune to the foundation.
The Gates Foundation provides financial support for Diplomas Count, an annual Education Week report on high school graduation.
A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2006 edition of Education Week