Gates in Ohio

Dale Patrick Dempsey

While the philanthropy world was still reeling from Investor Warren Buffett's announcement to give the bulk of his fortune-$37 billion-to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the foundation's staff and a group of education leaders met in Seattle on July 17 and 18 for the foundation's EDU Summer Conference. On the agenda was the future of the Gates' Foundation's education program.

Should Ohioans be interested?

You bet. The Gates Foundation has already invested millions in Ohio to improve high school graduation rates and school quality by promoting the "three R's"--rigor, relevance, and relationships. Some of the foundation's work in Ohio include:

  • Partnering with The KnowledgeWorks Foundation in Cincinnati to open three early college academies (with five more in the works), including the Dayton Early College Academy;
  • Sponsoring the Charter School Conference on Quality in November 2005, hosted by Governor Bob Taft, Ohio Speaker of the House John Husted, Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan T. Zelman;
  • Supporting the efforts of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation to expand its charter school sponsorship activities throughout the state;
  • Underwriting the creation of Keys to Improving Dayton Schools (k.i.d.s), a new charter management organization;
  • Financing the start-up of the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools;
  • And supporting numerous district reform efforts in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Dayton.

The foundation is also committed to preparing students for the demands of college and the workplace. Thus, it has become major backers of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and Governor Taft's Ohio's Core Curriculum proposal. 

So where does the foundation go from here?

After reflecting on some decidedly mixed results and a litany of studies evaluating its efforts (both detailed in a recent Business Week cover story), the foundation has emerged with a sharper focus. While it will continue to provide significant support to school reform initiatives, the foundation will center its efforts on what works--or at least what has a shot at working--before committing millions of dollars in support.

Ohioans should be encouraged. After all, we're already on the map.

"Bill Gates Gets Schooled," Business Week, June 26, 2006.

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