According to Parents Defending Education's Cracked Foundations study, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Wallace Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Windward Fund gave over $200 million to 70 school districts from 2017 to 2021.
So while children were falling behind in core subjects like reading and math, those grants were going to initiatives to push critical race theory (CRT) and social and emotional learning (SEL).
"There's a lot of money coming in from outside forces, which is, I think, really kind of frustrating to a lot of parents," responds Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education. "I live in a district where the district every year is trying to pass another $100 million bond initiative. I feel like I'm constantly being hit up or seeing ads on Facebook for GoFundMe's to buy crayons for school or school supplies for different teachers, and then we come to find out after filing all these public records requests through this research project that there are multi-billion-dollar foundations that are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the American school system while parents are still being hit up.'"
Recognizing that "this is sadly only the tip of the iceberg," her organization, which believes education should be based on scholarship and facts, is encouraging parents and other concerned citizens to speak up and help get children back on track in the classroom. Neily suggests that asking questions is a good place to start.
"We help people file public records requests," she adds. "If people are unhappy with these results, at the end of the day, these are your tax dollars, and these are your children, and so we encourage people to speak up and tell the school district, 'I'm not comfortable with this. I want you to focus on the basics and not divert classroom time to these other priorities.'"
The study identifies five major foundations, but Neily asserts that many others are also giving money to impact student achievement.