Education Funding

Gates Foundation’s New Billions Viewed as Boon, Challenge for Education Giving

July 11, 2006 2 min read

The recent announcement by the investor Warren E. Buffett that he will donate some $30 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is spurring questions about what the gift will mean—and should mean—for education giving at the nation’s wealthiest philanthropy.

The Gateses made clear during a public forum with Mr. Buffett that education will stay a top priority for the foundation, whose biggest focus is on issues of global health and development. Bill Gates, who is the chairman of the Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash., called ensuring a high-quality education for all U.S. students “our second big goal.”

“You could say we’re five or six years into our education thing, and we need another probably three to five years before it’s very clear which models are working,” he said at the June 26 New York City forum.

The Gateses did not offer any specifics for how the Buffett gift might affect their education giving, and a Gates spokeswoman also declined to do so, other than to reiterate the philanthropy’s commitment to the work.

The foundation has an endowment of more than $29 billion. Since 2000, it has committed about $1 billion to support the start-up of small high schools or the restructuring of large schools into smaller units. Disappointed by the outcomes of some of its small-schools work, the foundation increasingly has been giving money to help urban districts with broader efforts to improve curriculum and instruction in high schools.

Call for R&D

Mr. Buffett announced last month that he plans to donate most of his fortune, estimated at more than $40 billion, to several philanthropies, with the majority going to the Gates Foundation. The gift will go out in annual contributions of stock from Berkshire Hathaway, the Omaha, Neb., company he founded.

“This is going to be a very big investment for a long time,” said Paul T. Hill, the director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, located at the University of Washington in Seattle, whose work has received financial support from the Gates Foundation. “The question really is, their feet are wet, what do you do if you want to make a fundamental difference?”

Mr. Hill is hoping the foundation will shift toward a major emphasis on research and development in education, suggesting there remain far too many unanswered questions about how to successfully educate disadvantaged students.

“The foundation would actually ask for innovative ideas in instruction and instructional management, in integration of social services, in use of online and other resources,” Mr. Hill explained. Beyond that, he suggested, it should back efforts to implement pilot initiatives using those methods.

Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, said the growth at the foundation poses challenges.

“There’s a danger that, kind of like moths to a flame, reformers and researchers will flow to whatever Gates is doing, because there will be such a concentrated amount of resources.”

He added, “They’ve got to redouble their efforts to ensure that they’re speaking to folks who are thinking about the challenges in different ways, and seeking out thoughtful criticism and feedback.”

The Gates Foundation has provided funding to support Diplomas Count, an annual Education Week report on high school graduation.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2006 edition of Education Week as Gates Foundation’s New Billions Viewed As Boon, Challenge for Education Giving


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Funding Congress Could Go Big on COVID-19 Aid for Schools After Democrats Take Control
Education leaders hoping for another round of coronavirus relief might get their wish from a new Congress.
2 min read
The U.S. Capitol Dome
Sun shines on the U.S. Capitol dome, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/AP
Education Funding How Much Each State Will Get in COVID-19 Education Aid, in Four Charts
This interactive presentation has detailed K-12 funding information about the aid deal signed by President Donald Trump in December 2020.
1 min read
Education Funding Big Picture: How the Latest COVID-19 Aid for Education Breaks Down, in Two Charts
The massive package enacted at year's end provides billions of dollars to K-12 but still falls short of what education officials wanted.
1 min read
Image shows an illustration of money providing relief against coronavirus.
DigitalVision Vectors/iStock/Getty
Education Funding Education Dept. Gets $73.5 Billion in Funding Deal That Ends Ban on Federal Aid for Busing
The fiscal 2021 deal increases K-12 aid for disadvantaged students, special education, and other federal programs.
3 min read
FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2020, file photo, the Washington skyline is seen at dawn with from left the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol.
In this Nov. 8, 2020, file photo, the Washington skyline is seen at dawn with from left the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol. (File Photo-Associated Press)<br/>
J. Scott Applewhite/AP