Another well-funded, tech-adjacent nonprofit has been allowed into Texas’ education apparatus. Their connections and ideological bent are a cause for concern as to what public servants have let into our children’s system.
As has been covered throughout this series, public servants in education have given influence to radical-left nonprofits connected to the Chinese Communist Party and other statists.
Just as Bill Gates and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs warred in the tech sector, Jobs and personal computer magnate Michael Dell were enemies at one time. In 1997, Jobs had just returned to a floundering Apple and would eventually lead it through a dramatic turnaround and rise to dominance. That year, when Dell was asked what he would do if he ran the company, he replied that he would “shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” Jobs took Dell’s comment personally and declared in a keynote address, “We’re coming after you, buddy!” In 2006 when Apple’s market capitalization surpassed Dell’s, it was widely reported that Jobs emailed the Apple team and remarked, “It turned out that Michael Dell wasn’t perfect at predicting the future.” It was widely reported that Jobs and Dell eventually became friends.
Just as Gates and Jobs’ differences extended to education, the same appears to be true of Jobs and Dell. The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s (MSDF) efforts appear to have been focused on funding and adjusting systems, while Jobs in 1995 advocated for empowering parents.
At the center of this battle are the futures of children in America and Texas.
For this article, Texas Scorecard reviewed documents obtained through public information requests. This includes an agreement between the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
We also reviewed an 89-page document from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the Texas Education Agency.
There is slight crossover with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in this article. We pulled information from a CSV file of all grants BMGF has committed to. That file is available on their website. We extrapolated this information into an easy-to-search spreadsheet.
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.
Texas Scorecard sent inquiries to the Texas Education Agency and the Dell Foundation. No responses were received before publication.
The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
In this series, Texas Scorecard has focused on the ideology and activities of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) in America’s and Texas’ education systems. However, it would be remiss to discuss these activities without mentioning those of another philanthropic organization that repeatedly showed up in the course of this investigation: the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF).
MSDF, a philanthropic organization founded by Michael and his wife Susan, is another influential powerhouse in the policy world. A keen observer examining a number of projects where BMGF has invested their millions will discover that MSDF has likewise funded the same initiatives, although sometimes in lesser amounts. In fact, the Gates Foundation gave close to $845,000 in grants to the Dell Foundation in 2019-2020. What were these monies funding? Helping increase data access to teachers, teacher preparation programs, K-12 schools, and “key stakeholders.”
Michael Dell is an honorary member of the Foundation Board at the World Economic Forum, a notorious globalist organization that has become more vocal in recent years. He also has a connection to the Chinese Communist Party, due to his position on the advisory board of Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, this university is considered “very high risk.” Aside from being Chinese President Xi Jinping’s alma mater, it is also involved in Chinese defense research and cyber warfare.
Mr. Dell is not alone in such relationships. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMFG) also has contributed funds to CCP-controlled universities in China. Currently, the CCP continues to escalate as a threat to national and state security. As exposed in Texas Scorecard’s investigative series in 2022, the CCP has already made multiple incursions into Texas.
The network of organizations around the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is equally telling. In 2015, they gave a million-dollar grant to the Hispanic Federation, an organization funded by BMFG, George Soros’ Open Society Institute (now Open Society Foundations), Pfizer, and the anti-school choice American Federation of Teachers, among others. In fact, the Hispanic Federation gave an award to Soros at their 2019 gala. They even applauded the impeachment of former President Donald Trump (R).
These facts immediately raise concerns about the activities of MSDF.
Their ideology mirrors that of the Gates Foundation too, heavily emphasizing DIE (diversity, inclusion, and equity; more aptly described as divide, indoctrinate, and excommunicate). Specifically, they claim they “work to overcome both the causes and the consequences of major inequities and systemic racism by ensuring that resources and opportunities are fairly distributed.” Their founders go so far as to adopt the logically inconsistent belief that “potential is equally distributed; opportunity is not.”
A cursory glance at the world around us, as well as human history, illustrates that mankind is endowed with various amounts of potential. Furthermore, even those with significant amounts of potential can choose to squander it, while those with less can achieve far more than their counterparts if they put in the effort. An attempt to “fairly distribute” opportunities may sound lovely, but in practice it is both impossible and impractical. As Soviet Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn notably said: “Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”
Logged Into Texas Education
In addition to their questionable ideological leanings, MSDF mirrors BMGF’s pattern as they involve themselves in a wide array of scientific and educational initiatives.
Despite their website clearly stating that they do not fund “medical research projects,” MSDF has funded similar initiatives in the past. As recently as 2021, it was widely reported they funded a study for the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine alongside BMGF and others. It was widely reported that in 2007, they contributed $4 million of funding to the Meningitis Vaccine Project in Burkina Faso, also with other groups. It was initially funded by BMGF, and the vaccine was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative annual conference.
Clearly, BMGF and MSDF have cooperated regularly. They also funded their fair share of education projects. Previously, Texas Scorecard reported on various grants to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) by the Gates Foundation. However, the TEA also received an MSDF grant of nearly $3 million for one of their data system upgrade projects.
This isn’t the only connection between the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and TEA. The nonprofit was also one of the primary partners on the Texas High School Project—an alliance between the state and numerous organizations to create smaller schools.
There was another connection as well. Transparency USA reports MSDF hired lobbyist Joe Siedlecki for an amount between $18,890 – $47,219 in 2022 and $18,360 – $46,579 in 2021. Siedlecki had worked for MSDF from 2008 to 2016, and then went on to be TEA’s Associate Commissioner for School Innovation and Improvement from 2016 to 2021. In fact, one of his professional references is TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. Before that, he was employed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during the George W. Bush administration. Siedlecki rejoined MSDF after leaving TEA in 2021. He is currently employed at Amira Learning, based in Austin, Texas, as their chief impact officer.
However, MSDF does more than simply fund data software projects. The University of Texas Dell Medical Center was built in large part due to a $50 million contribution from MSDF in 2013. In 2020, the Foundation pledged $100 million to the University of Texas at Austin. This donation is not just a display of charity and support; the Dell Foundation will have direct access to students. UT President Greg Fenvres said: “We’ll have Dell Foundation staff integrated into all our staff and providing services for students.” Part of this partnership includes giving computers to students, once again, despite MSDF’s statement that they do not fund “requests for computers, laptops, tablets, or other hardware.”
According to tax documents, MSDF has also contributed to Austin and Dallas Independent School Districts, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Texas at Austin, among others.
The Dell Foundation has also contributed millions to an organization called Teach for America. One of this organization’s priorities is diversity, equity, and inclusion, specifically “educational equity.” In fact, one of the resources available on their website is an article about “how to practice culturally relevant pedagogy.” The article breaks down the key parts of this teaching philosophy, namely “academic achievement, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness.” It encourages students to “interrogate their own identity, culture, biases, and privilege” and “challenge the inequitable status quo.” Although, at face value, such practices may not seem inherently ideological, a closer look illustrates how this kind of innocuous language masks an insidious ideology .
A Cautionary Tale
It has become clear that in recent years, powerful philanthropies driven by ideologues have wielded an increasing amount of power and influence over numerous sectors of society, education being the foremost.
The consistent failures of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, their concerning ties with Chinese security threats, and their leftist ideological bent should give Texans pause about what their public servants have allowed into the state’s education apparatus. The connections the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has with the CCP and other statists is also a warning.
Most importantly, this information should cause Texas institutions—school districts, charitable organizations, and private companies alike—to think twice before accepting their money with open hands.
Where it regards how to fix educational free fall in the Lone Star State and beyond, it all seems to go back to the simple solution Gates’ and Dell’s rival Steve Jobs posited in 1995: parents have to plug back in, and they have to be empowered. That’s what fueled his support for a “full voucher” system.
The Texas Legislature is considering a limited school choice option this year, and Gov. Greg Abbott has campaigned hard for it.