School Reform TV: The “New” Philanthropists of Public Education

Have You Heard listens in on the recent XQ Superschools Live spectacular, the big budget, star-studded TV extravaganza aimed at “rethinking high school,” brought to you by Silicon Valley billionairess Laurene Powell Jobs. Co-host Jack Schneider examines the claims that high school hasn’t changed in 100 years. (Did you know that he’s an education historian???). We’re joined by Megan Tompkins Stange, author of Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence helps us see the world of public education as a billionaire edu-reformer does. It’s Have You Heard #27! Read the transcript here.

Foundations Unfiltered

Megan Tompkins-Stange spent five years conducting confidential interviews with insiders at some of the foundations most involved in education reform. What they told her will surprise you. Or not… 

EduShyster: You spent five years interviewing insiders at some of the foundations most involved in education reform, and your new book Policy Patrons allows readers to *listen in* on conversations that are, let’s just say, enlightening. I want to give readers a taste by jumping right into a Gates Foundation official’s take on the chummy relationship between the foundation and the Obama administration—or as one Obama staffer describes it in a telling slip of the tongue, the Gates administration. 

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Megan Tompkins-Stange: I think this is one of the more interesting quotes in the book, because it’s quite self-reflective. On the one hand, the source is acknowledging that the close coupling between Gates and the Department of Education under Arne Duncan was great because it pushed their agenda forward. But on the other hand, they’re acknowledging that it’s somewhat problematic in terms of democratic legitimacy. It was my sense that most of the people I talked to hadn’t engaged—at an organizational level—with the larger question of *What’s our role in a liberal democracy?* or *Is this the right thing for us to do as a foundation?* They were so focused on the work—they talked about *We’re changing things; we’re moving the policy, look at all these things we’ve accomplished.* The democracy part of it was not really a part of the equation in terms of their day-to-day discussions. It was more about, *How do we get the elites who can really move this policy on board?* But it seems like that is changing now in a few contexts. Continue reading →