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K-12 / Education & Workforce Development

Should Indiana take Gates' money?

October 26, 2009

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is catching flack for its influence on President Obama’s education thrust, and Indiana is preparing to enter the fray.

The Gates Foundation, which until now has worked with elementary and secondary schools to improve student performance, is helping states apply for the $5 billion of federal grants earmarked for helping education. Read a story about it here.

Here’s the catch: Gates likes charter schools, and insists that any reform plans the states submit to snag a share of the $5 billion pot include paying teachers based on student test scores. That model is consistent with Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s thinking.

Teacher unions are livid. They’ve long contended charters drain money from traditional public schools, and they say education is about a lot more than test scores.

Nevertheless, other states are charging ahead with their proposals. Minnesota has used Gates money to hire consulting behemoth McKinsey & Co. to help it prepare its federal application.

Gates originally offered to help only 15 reform-friendly states, and Indiana wasn’t among them. After other states complained, the foundation expanded the offer so long as the states met a laundry list of requirements.

Indiana might still succeed in landing Gates money, said Cam Savage, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education. “We’re very interested in applying, but can’t definitely commit to applying until we see the [Gates] application and parameters,” Savage said.

How do you feel about the state seeking the Gates money?

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