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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
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.
Student Achievement Webinar
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
Student Well-Being Online Summit Student Mental Health
Attend this summit to learn what the data tells us about student mental health, what schools can do, and best practices to support students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Opinion What Ed. Leaders Can Learn From a Wildfire About Spending $129 Billion in Federal Funds
There are five entrenched routines that leaders should reject to forge a better path forward after the pandemic.
Kristen McQuillan
4 min read
Firefighters fighting fire
Education Funding Opinion Does Place-Based Giving Make It Harder for Funders to Get Reliable Feedback?
Big donors can be lulled into underestimating the financial, political, and information constraints of place-based philanthropy.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
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.
Education Funding Quiz
Quiz Yourself: How Much Do You Know About Using The American Rescue Plan Act to Support Hybrid-Learning?
Quiz Yourself: How well do you know the American Rescue Plan?
Content provided by ConexED
Education Funding Biden Pitches 41 Percent Spending Increase for Education Next Year on Top of COVID-19 Aid
The president wants nearly $103 billion for the Department of Education, although history indicates Congress won't approve that request.
4 min read
Conceptual image of money, a mask, and the American flag.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: HAKINMHAN/iStock/Getty and Cimmerian/E+)