Microsoft founder Bill Gates has personally forked over several million dollars to support a charter school referendum on the Washington state ballot in November — and now, Microsoft Corp. just upped its donation.
The company ponied up another $50,000 more in donations to the Yes on 1240 initiative, bringing its total contribution to the pro-charter campaign to $100,000. That is chump change compared to the money Gates has personally donated: As of Oct. 18, according to Public Disclosure Commission forms, Gates has given $3,053,000 of his own to the cause. You can see what other billionaires and multimillionaires have donated here.
Washington voters have rejected the opening of public charter schools three times — in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Recent polls on where state voters stand on the new charter initiative give no clear indication of the fate of Yes on 1240, according to the Seattle Times.
The Microsoft donation is just the latest example of how people with deep pockets are funding school reform efforts. Though Gates lives in Washington state and Microsoft is headquartered there, a lot of the donors live elsewhere.
In Georgia, too, out-of-state money is fueling a charter initiative. This one would amend the state constitution to create a panel that could approve charter schools over the opposition of local schools boards, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
One of the donors to the pro-charter campaign in Georgia has also contributed to the Washington state charter initiative even though she lives in Texas: Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton.
Why exactly anybody in Georgia thinks this is a great idea is a mystery, given that a report issued in February found that the more than 160 charter schools in the state were no better and sometimes less successful than traditional public schools. In fact, the state superintendent of schools opposes it, and so does the Georgia PTA, the League of Women Voters, Georgia’s NAACP and may other community groups.