News & Opinion | July 16, 2018 10:07 am

New Analysis Shows Billionaires Fuel Powerful State Charter Groups

Billionaires influence state education policy by giving money to state-level charter groups.

charter schools
The Renaissance Charter Public School in Boston is pictured on Aug. 1, 2017. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Boston Globe via Getty Images

An analysis by the Associated Press shows that billionaires are influencing state education policy by giving money to state-level charter support organizations to sustain, defend and expand the charter school movement across the country. The AP writes that one example is how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given about $25 million to the Washington State Charter Schools Association, which the foundation also helped create. Since 2006, philanthropists and their private foundations and charities have given almost half a billion dollars to those groups, the Associated Press analysis of tax filing and Foundation Center data reveals.

Most of the money has gone to the top 15 groups, which received $425 million from philanthropy. The biggest donor to the state charter advocates is the Walton Family Foundation, run by the heirs to the Walmart fortune. They have given $144 million to 27 groups. Gates and other philanthropists embrace charters because they see them as investments in developing better and different ways to educate those who struggle in traditional school systems. Studies on academic success are mixed.