What Can $1.7 Billion Do For U.S. Schools? Bill Gates Wants To Find Out

25% of the funding will prioritize what Gates calls “big bets.”

Bill and Melinda Gates. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Microsoft co-founder and global philanthropist Bill Gates revealed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will invest $1.7 billion in American schools over the next five years.

Gates announced the funding Oct. 19, while delivering the keynote address in Cleveland at the Council of the Great City Schools conference, one of the country's largest gatherings of urban educators and school officials. The investment will support projects in three areas of interest: public schools, “big bets,” and charter schools.

60% of the money will go to public schools to help develop new curricula and push for more rigorous data collection to closely track student grades, attendance, and achievement. This portion of the funds will also support local networks of schools that can work together to identify and solve problems unique to their region and student population. Gates cited groups like the CORE Districts in California, which is a network of the eight largest districts in the state, and Tenessee's LIFT Education, which is comprised of 12 urban and rural districts across the state.

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We believe this kind of approach — where groups of schools have the flexibility to propose the set of approaches they want — will lead to more impactful and durable systemic change that is attractive enough to be widely adopted by other schools,” Gates said in his address.

25% of the funding will prioritize what Gates calls “big bets.” This includes technological innovations for the classroom as well as funding research and development opportunities in psychology, neuroscience, and pedagogy.

The final 15% of the funds will go to high-performing charter schools to help improve outcomes for disabled children, particularly those with learning disabilities.

“This is a critical problem across the education sector, and we believe that charters have the flexibility to help the field solve this problem,” Gates said.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began working in education in 2000 and has invested in projects and moonshot ideas with varying degrees of success.

Early on, the foundation invested in breaking large high schools into smaller ones, and while it was moderately successful, it proved to be an expensive, emotional, and highly political process. The foundation also financially backed Common Core standards and teacher evaluation processes, two controversial approaches to improving our education system. (Gates has since announced the foundation will no longer invest in the latter going forward.)

While Gates has good intentions, it remains to be seen if the foundation's $1.7 billion will be the jumpstart public schools need to improve outcomes for all students, particularly disabled students, students of color, and students from families with low incomes.

But one thing is for certain: These students and their futures are a more than worthy investment.

AFP News Agency / Twitter

A study out of Belgium found that smart people are much less likely to be bigoted. The same study also found that people who are bigoted are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence.

A horrifying story out of Germany is a perfect example of this truth on full display: an anti-Semite was so dumb the was unable to open a door at the temple he tried to attack.

On Wednesday, October 9, congregants gathered at a synagogue in Humboldtstrasse, Germany for a Yom Kippur service, and an anti-Semite armed with explosives and carrying a rifle attempted to barge in through the door.

Keep Reading Show less
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less

One of the biggest obstacles to getting assault weapons banned in the United States is the amount of money they generate.

There were around 10 million guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2016 of which around 2 million were semiautomatic, assault-style weapons. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade association, the U.S. industry's total economic impact in 2016 alone was $51 billion.

In 2016, the NRA gave over $50 million to buy support from lawmakers. When one considers the tens of millions of dollars spent on commerce and corruption, it's no wonder gun control advocates have an uphill battle.

That, of course, assumes that money can control just about anyone in the equation. However, there are a few brave souls who actually value human life over profit.

Keep Reading Show less
via Reddit and NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Trees give us a unique glimpse into our past. An examination of tree rings can show us what the climate was like in a given year. Was it a wet winter? Were there hurricanes in the summer? Did a forest fire ravage the area?

An ancient tree in New Zealand is the first to provide evidence of the near reversal of the Earth's magnetic field over 41,000 years ago.

Over the past 83 million years there have been 183 magnetic pole reversals, a process that takes about 7,000 years to complete.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Pixabay

The final episode of "The Sopranos" made a lot of people angry because it ends with mob boss Tony Soprano and his family eating at an ice cream parlor while "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey plays in the background … and then, suddenly, the screen turns black.

Some thought the ending was a dirty trick, while others saw it as a stroke of brilliance. A popular theory is that Tony gets shot, but doesn't know it because, as his brother-in-law Bobby Baccala said, "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?"

So the show gives us all an idea of what it's like to die. We're here and then we're not.

Keep Reading Show less