It’s no secret that Bill and Melinda Gates want to be world changers. Through their Foundation, the couple have worked to tackle myriad issues all over the world. Now, Bill and Melinda Gates are looking at educational shortcomings right here at home.
After a new federal education law was passed, Gates saw opportunity and directed about $44 million to educational groups to help build new state education plans outlined in the law, which was passed in 2015.
Bill Gates has made it a key point of his post-Microsoft life to reshape and reinvigorate how education is conducted both here and abroad. His deep pockets and the scope of his Foundation’s efforts allow him to wield considerable influence in the formation of new educational programs.
Even as critics bash him for messing with “well enough,” Gates remains committed to moving the American educational system forward, while also shifting more control over the system from the federal government back to the states. That move, says Alan Golston, president of the Gates Foundation U.S., is necessary and vital:
“For 50 states with varying sets of capacities and capabilities and readiness, it was both an opportunity and also a concern that states and partners in those states needed support…”
That support helps bridge the gap for schools that have state standards but also depend on federal funding that is dependent on following certain national standards. During the debate about those standards, often known as “Common Core,” Gates was front and center, offering strong support for higher educational standards from the very beginning of schooling.
That stand for Common Core put Gates at odds with many who saw Common Core national standards as a step away from state sovereignty. Now, he’s reaching through that animosity to help the states be the best they can be for their students.
To accomplish that, the Gates Foundation is offering to fund initiatives at every step of the process, from grassroots policy advocacy to educational research on best practices to the actual “boots on the ground” implementation of those policies. That’s a difficult tightrope to walk, considering that there are powerful and opinionated groups at every level, organizations who may want the money but resent the influence.
Those factors present an interesting public relations challenge for the Bill and Melinda Gates as they continue to work toward their goals of a better American educational system. Not everyone agrees with their version of “better” … and many don’t yet understand it. Effective communication will be integral to both of those endeavors.
Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive with over 20 years of experience