Bill Gates – out of touch with teachers

Dec 8, 2010, 2:44 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

When you read about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, often the article is related to the millions of dollars they donate to enhance healthcare and reduce poverty around the world. Did you know that in the United States, all of their foundation dollars are spent on one thing – education.

The Gates Foundation’s focus on education is making many public school leaders nervous and they say the billionaire who co-founded Microsoft is out of touch with classroom teachers.

“Not all of the ideas that he has espoused necessarily reflect what educators who work with kids, our students, every single day know will really make a difference,” says Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association.

Gates and teachers unions are trying to improve education, but they have different and sometimes conflicting ideas about how that should be done.

Comparing test scores in the United States, with other countries,
Bill Gates said during recent speech that public education systems here are not doing a great job.

Gates“A statistic I find unbelievable is if you’re a low income child in this country, you have a greater chance of ending up in jail than getting a four-year college diploma,” Gates says.

Comparing Washington state with the rest of the U.S., Lindquist says our public education system is not at the top of the pack.

“In Washington state we came into this recession as one of the worst-funded school systems in the nation,” she says. “We spend less educating each child than all but three or four states.”

Both Gates and Lindquist agree education systems aren’t as efficient or effective as they should be. How do we improve education?

Lindquist says we need to spend more money, but “frankly we have just lacked the political will to step up to the plate and provide the funding for our schools.”

Washington has at least a $1 billion budget gap for the current spending cycle, and will be in the hole another $5.7 billion during the next biennium. It’s not likely the legislature will spend more money on education. Lindquist fears cuts to all-day kindergarten programs and increasing class sizes.

The Gates Foundation announced partnerships yesterday with nine cities, none in Washington, to help public and charter schools figure out the best way to help students in their communities.

Gates has also been an advocate of changing the way teachers are evaluated and doing away with bonuses for educators with master’s degrees. He says there’s no proof those teachers are better for students in the classroom than others.

“The people who are really improving the test scores aren’t studied to see how they do it,” he says. “There are clearly a lot of great teachers, but then some are not so great.”

Washington has an average teacher salary bump of $11,000 for a master’s degree, and more than half our teachers get it. That’s spending $300 million a year in a way that “doesn’t make a difference” for kids, he says.

Lindquist’s response?

“This appears to be the idea du jour of how to change our schools,” she says. “I honestly appreciate the interest in trying to figure out some way for our schools to address the huge budget shortfalls and the cuts to education. I see this as an attempt, perhaps a misguided one, to try and figure out some way to stretch those dollars.”

She also says now is not the time to be debating teacher pay kinds of issues.

“When your house is on fire, you probably need to focus on putting out the fire and not worry about decorating your living room,” Lindquist says. “We need to be looking at the bigger issues and broader problems facing our schools and not trying to do these interesting, perhaps intriguing ideas. We need to take a step back and really address the bigger issue.”

Gates disagrees.

“I’d say that figuring out how to do schools effectively – how to keep the best teachers, how to improve the average quality of the teachers, how to use new technology – is even more important at this time,” says Gates.

The Gates photo is a screen grab from a documentary film he appeared in this year about education. “Waiting for Superman” analyzed the failures of American public education by following several students through the system. Critics complained the Davis Guggenheim production unfairly portrayed American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten as a villain to super-heroes of school reform.

The News Chick Blog

The wife of Seattle attorney Danford Grant moved his car away from one of the alleged crime scenes ...
No Author

Equal justice for Seattle lawyer accused of several rapes?

Has accused serial rapist Danford Grant gotten preferential treatment because both he and his wife are Seattle attorneys?
10 years ago
The Seattle-based I Can Has Cheezburger network now includes 60 humor sites. Many of their 90 emplo...
No Author

Seattle humor network, built with funny cat pictures, becomes a reality TV show

A small Internet empire with a funny name has billions of page views on its network of 60 humor websites based in Seattle. Now, I Can Has Cheezburger has a reality TV show too.
10 years ago
President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent a combined $30.33 every second this election cycle. Wa...
No Author

Democracy and dollar signs – 2012 campaign spending

Washington initiative campaigns spent $34 million trying to win your vote, while President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent a combined $30.33 every second this election cycle.
10 years ago
Chef Tom Douglas says Seattle’s restaurants are ‘a little homemade’ compared with...
No Author

Chef Tom Douglas says ‘Seattle is a funny restaurant town’

Chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas, with 13 Seattle restaurants and more on the way, says Seattle is a "funny restaurant town."
10 years ago
Investigation continues into why a commander of the Bremerton-based Stennis carrier group was remov...
No Author

New ‘crazy’ conspiracy theory on Stennis Rear Admiral

The Pentagon shoots down theories about why the commander of the USS Stennis Carrier Group was removed from duty and sent back to the homeport in Bremerton.
10 years ago
Seattle photographer Paul Souders captures an adult polar bear up close in Hudson Bay in Churchill,...
No Author

Seattle photographer comes face to face with a polar bear

A wildlife photographer, who lives in Ballard, has taken thousands of stunning shots. None put him on "a razor's edge" more than a series of photos swimming with a polar bear.
10 years ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Bill Gates – out of touch with teachers