Public servants in Texas allowed a radical-left nonprofit influence in our education apparatus, both at the K-12 level and in higher education.
This nonprofit has connections to the Chinese Communist Party and other opponents to self-governance.
Previously, Texas Scorecard examined the concerning connections of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and their ever-expanding, multimillion-dollar reach into education. Most of their education initiatives have been woefully unsuccessful.
Unbeknownst to many Texans, BMGF’s reach into education has even touched the Lone Star State.
For this article, Texas Scorecard reviewed multiple documents obtained through public information requests we sent to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
These documents include an email response from TEA, as well as an Evaluation of the Texas High School Project published in November 2010. The TEA also provided an interim report of the Austin Independent School District’s Redesign and High School Reform Initiative, published in June 2010.
We were also provided a contract between TEA and Certica Solutions to improve data management, as well as a memorandum regarding that contract. There is also TEA’s application for a grant from BMGF and their amendment to their agreement with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. We were also provided progress reports of this project from March 1-14, March 15-28, and March 29-April 18 of 2022.
There is also a June 2019 TEA request for support from BMGF and a 2019 fall and winter grant from the foundation to the state education agency. BMGF and TEA signed an agreement in September 2022, too. We also obtained two proposals (A and B) and agreements (A and B) between BMGF and Texas Tech University.
What follows in this investigative report are highlights from these sources. Citizens wishing to conduct a thorough deep dive should click the links above for the source documents.
Following our research, Texas Scorecard sent a media inquiry to TEA about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). No response was received before publication.
TEA Meets BMGF
One of BMGF’s primary partners in their Texas education experiments is the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Early in the foundation’s history, they worked with the TEA on the Texas High School Project, an alliance between them and other charitable organizations like the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Previously, Texas Scorecard reviewed the Gates Foundation’s penchant for smaller schools, the millions of dollars they have poured into that effort, and the less than stellar results they produced. The Texas High School Project appears to be part of the same initiative.
In November 2010, six years after the project’s launch, the TEA produced a report documenting the results. Although the new, smaller schools did seem to outperform comparison schools more than larger facilities, the program needed to be implemented for a longer period of time in order to yield positive results. Even then, the report conceded that “this multifaceted approach to high school reform through a public-private alliance and with a range of reform models and programs has begun to have positive effects, albeit modest ones and for specific models rather than across the board” [emphasis added].
The Austin Independent School District, a regular concern to parents of late, received special help from BMGF as part of this project. A June 2010 interim report by SRI International, a nonprofit research institute, reported:
The district developed an expansive data system and invested considerable resources in equipping everyone in the district with timely information for decision-making at the district, school, and classroom levels. The district also invested heavily in building the capacity and expertise of principals and teacher leaders, established an accountability system, and demonstrated a commitment to equity [emphasis added].
One program in particular stood out. “Advisory” was intended to build stronger relationships between teachers and individual students in the district. Rather than just encouraging these connections, the district also mandated a class that would facilitate them. Although strong faculty-student relationships are a commendable goal for any school, roughly half of the AISD teachers interviewed in the study opposed this program. They also found concern about too many new programs being added at once, or that the new programs caused confusion and conflict, or that the changes would not be sustainable for any meaningful length of time. Some students also opposed the idea, since they appreciated the relationships they built with their teachers but did not want the Advisory class.
In addition to this proposal, the district also added additional resources for teachers, like “professional learning communities,” which were well intentioned but took up more time.
The interim report concluded that it was impossible to determine which, if any, of the initiatives implemented by AISD improved the functionality or quality of the schools. The writers conceded that “while our analysis of student outcomes found no statistically significant gains [emphasis added] in achievement of AISD students compared to those of a matched comparison group at this time, these emerging yet promising indications that improvement efforts are taking root should be noted.”
Even though none of the programs implemented by the district and BMGF actually improved the education of students, BMGF and the public servants at the TEA and the AISD seemed satisfied with the “promising” results of their work.
Big Data, Your Students
Another area BMGF and TEA have found interesting in recent years is data organization. TEA agreed to numerous contracts with various companies to update the software that stores student data. One of these contracts with an organization called Certica Solutions, amounts to $5 million. According to a memorandum obtained from the TEA, BMGF would provide $400,000 of those funds in Fiscal Year 2020 and another $850,000 in Fiscal Year 2021. The TEA also applied for funds from BMGF and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for a data systems upgrade contract with Instructure, an education technology company based out of Utah:
TEA’s application also mentioned “a grant to Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to coordinate data projects in Texas and California.”
As is typical of government, the project fell behind. Operational delays were the given reason, and the grant funds were not disbursed until the project was back on track. Presentations tracking progress from March 1-14, March 15-28, and March 29-April 18, all in the year 2022, showed this project was “at risk.” Delays increased from 125 calendar days to 145. An update on the final grant amount from BMGF was not provided in response to Texas Scorecard’s request to the TEA. However, the Dell Foundation amended the project and authorized their grant portion to be disbursed on a new timeline.
The TEA and BMGF have connected over other data work. In 2019, they requested help from them for IT and data support for the TEA’s proposed “educator preparation programs.” They estimated the “in-kind” support they were requesting would be valued at approximately $850,000. That same year, BMGF awarded a grant to the TEA of more than $900,000 “to support improvements to allow teacher preparation programs to access data to inform their improvement efforts.” This wasn’t the only TEA grant awarded in 2019. BMGF also gave them a sum of $1.25 million for a “data system upgrade.”
Although BMGF contributing funds for student data projects may seem innocuous on the surface level, a glance at their history with such projects raises some red flags. In April 2014, roughly five years before the TEA projects, it was widely reported that BMGF gave $100 million to a company called inBloom in order to revolutionize student data storage and organization. However, the project quickly ended up in hot water due to privacy concerns. In Louisiana, parents discovered that their childrens’ Social Security numbers had been shared with the third-party. This discovery led to public servants saying they would delete student data from the database, and similar withdrawals have taken place in New York and Colorado.
The CEO of the organization, Iwan Streichenberger, complained about these privacy concerns, saying that “it is a shame that the progress of this important innovation has been stalled because of generalized public concerns about data misuse, even though inBloom has world-class security and privacy protections that have raised the bar for school districts and the industry as a whole.” However, there is a case for the validity of such concerns, as noted by technology writer George Gilder in this 2018 book “Life after Google,” where he covers, among other topics, the failure of Big Tech to solve the problem of security. “The crisis of the current order in security, privacy, intellectual property, business strategy, and technology is fundamental and cannot be solved within the current computer and network architecture,” he wrote. “If security is not integral to an information technology architecture, that architecture must be replaced.” Streichenberger eventually announced that inBloom would be “wind[ing] down.”
It was widely reported that this privacy debacle was cited by parents in New York as one of the many reasons they demanded then-Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) refuse to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on educational initiatives in the state.
Previously, Texas Scorecard reported that one of BMGF’s most recent pet projects is teacher preparation programs. These programs have cropped up in Texas as well. In August 2022, they signed an agreement with TEA worth $200,000 for a teacher workforce initiative. In September 2022, they signed another worth $900,000 for a teacher preparation program.
However, it appears that BMGF does more than simply provide funds. Rather than the TEA alone making the decision, BMGF invited certain people from state agency to serve on the Selection Committee for what award proposals are accepted for the Educator Prep Program.
A search of the past 20 years revealed that more than $12 million in BMGF have been received by the TEA. However, the TEA isn’t their primary pipeline. The real target is Texas universities.
Next Upgrade: Universities
Over the past 20 years, BMGF has given more than $146 million in grants to Texas colleges and universities. A number of these grants are aimed at implementing teacher preparation programs, similar to those the Foundation pursued in high schools across the nation and in their deals with the TEA. Although the goal of increasing teacher effectiveness seems noble (when it is achieved), a closer look at the metrics by which BMGF measures success, and the values they seek to promote in Texas teachers, raises concern.
Over the past several years, BMGF gave a few grants to Texas Tech University. The purpose of these funds were “to support the improvement of teacher preparation programs” through an organization called US PREP.
US PREP is an organization with the stated goal of “disrupting inequities at scale.” They aim to do this “by building teacher candidate content knowledge and competency to meet ALL students where they are and advance their learning by giving them what they need — especially focused on students who have been historically underserved; such as Black, Latinx, Native American, and/or economically disadvantaged students.” The organization was founded by Scott Ridley, the former dean of the Texas Tech College of Education.
A look at the ideological bent of US PREP seems consistent with the ideologies of BMGF and their allies. It should also concern Texans everywhere, especially given their commitment to the hate-pushing ideology of “equity, diversity, and inclusion.” Specifically, they “strive to … foster open and constructive discussions amongst US PREP coalition members regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice” and “work with … coalition members to ensure that all aspects of teacher preparation programming address patterns of inequity by integrating principles of diversity and inclusion and promoting equity and social justice within coursework, teaching, and clinical experiences.” In fact, one plank of their educational model is “DEI and Social Justice.”
US PREP seeks to implement their model through various “cohorts” (or “coalition members”) of universities across the country. Two cohorts in particular, III and IV, received funding from BMGF.
Cohort III includes some California universities, as well as four Texas universities: University of Texas – Permian Basin, Tarleton State University, University of Houston, and Texas State University. This $6 million grant was intended to start a teacher preparation program at these universities. Part of this particular project was to “serve Black, Latino, and low-income students.” Since millions of dollars are funding the training of the next generation of teachers, citizens should be concerned about the kind of training these teachers are receiving. The proposal notes that as part of this program, “teacher candidates develop a deep understanding of the common core standards and pedagogies, competencies to enact social and emotional learning, and culturally relevant pedagogy.”
BMGF gave those in Cohort IV funding, which also included four Texas universities: Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, University of Houston – Victoria, Sam Houston State University, and Texas A&M University – Texarkana.
Texas Tech also received $6.5 million. Their proposal for this money includes the same statements regarding so-called diversity and cultural competencies as the previous one, highlighting its focus on “Black, Latinx, Native American, and/or economically disadvantaged students” and teacher candidates. The proposal form required by BGMF shows how they are using their influence to push ideological indoctrination. Their form inquires about the project’s DEI components. Specifically, it asks the following questions:
As mentioned above, US PREP is a left-leaning organization, and 2021 email blasts from the organization reveal numerous communications pertaining to diversity, inclusion, and equity training and other divisive leftist ideas [emphasis below added]:
This is the organization spearheading the training and preparation of the next wave of teachers who will be shaping the cultural and ideological beliefs of the next generation. Not only is US PREP indoctrinating their student teachers with the leftist ideologies of DIE, but they are also seeking to corner the market on teacher certifications. They are explicitly opposed to “alternative certification options” for teachers, claiming that they “bring a steep cost for quality.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation isn’t the only organization supporting these programs. As the chart below indicates, US PREP has received an increasing amount of funding from taxpayer-funded state agencies:
A reader wondering what these programs have achieved might find the results difficult to understand, since about 65 pages of the proposal detailing the current program’s performance levels are redacted.
More Questions Than Answers
Transparency became in an issue in the course of this investigation. Texas Scorecard requested records of grants and other projects with the Gates Foundation from Texas Woman’s University. They appealed the request to Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), asking for permission to withhold records. Paxton granted the appeal.
When Texas Scorecard contacted Texas Woman’s University for comment, their only response was: “Texas Woman’s position on this matter was stated in the response by the Texas attorney general’s office, which your publication has. The university has no additional comment.” In their correspondence with Paxton, they cited “potential for duplication of the Projects” as the reason for their appeal, claiming that releasing information about the cost and details of the proposals “would harm TWU in a future competitive situation.” Furthermore, the university cited “deliberative process privilege,” a label that shields inter-agency communication from public review.
Medical research work showed up in the course of our investigation as well. BMGF also showed up grant requests from the University of North Texas (UNT) for various biological research projects, including a $1 million grant for research pertaining to “oocyte maturation.” Science Direct states oocyte maturation “encompasses three developmental programs that are essential for the production of an egg competent to undergo fertilization and embryogenesis.” Texas Scorecard reached out to the lead investigator on this project, Dr. Pudur Jagadeeswaran, for comment regarding the project and his role. In response, Dr. Jagadeeswaran revealed that the project was ultimately rejected and not funded. However, UNT has received other grants from the Gates Foundation. One in particular valued at more than $145,000 to the university for tuberculosis and malaria-related projects, an area in which BMGF has been active for a while, and a subject of contention in the scientific community, as previously examined in this series.
Although the reach of the ideological Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is broad, they aren’t the only philanthropic organization with interests in the Texas educational system.
In the final article of this series, Texas Scorecard will examine the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s involvement in Texas’ educational landscape.