CMSD NEWS BUREAU
Philanthropist Bill Gates plans to invest $1.7 billion in public education over the next five years, focusing on practices that evidence indicates can spur academic gains across the country.
The co-founder of Microsoft made the announcement Thursday in Cleveland at the Council of the Great City Schools' fall conference. CMSD is hosting the national conference, which has drawn more than 1,100 urban school leaders.
CMSD Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon and school board Chair Anne E. Bingham applauded Gates' decision to reserve 60 percent of the money for networks of schools located within or across districts. The Cleveland school district charts intervention and support for more than 100 schools divided into eight networks.
"That aligns nicely with the strategy we have been working toward and continue to work toward," Gordon said after Gates delivered
the conference's keynote address at the downtown Hilton Hotel.
Gordon introduced Gates to a packed ballroom, calling him a longtime supporter of the council and membership that now totals 69 large urban systems. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation devotes most of its U.S. philanthropy to schools, with K-12 education receiving the largest share.
Gates said some of the foundation's past investments in teaching and learning yielded scattered results with limited potential for growth. He said priority would now be placed on practices that are supported by data and can be spread to give every child access to a high-quality public school education.
A fourth of the money will go to "big bets on innovation" that interest and fascinate students, Gates said. He also plans to support high-quality curricula in English, math and science and continue supporting charter schools, especially when it comes to serving students with special needs.
Milwaukee Superintendent Darienne Driver, chair of the Council of the Great City Schools, liked Gates' emphasis on math, specifically algebra, which she said "affects everybody." She said she wanted to learn more about Gates' plans to support school networks and use data.
Edward Burroughs III, a member of the Prince George's County Board of Education in Maryland, said Gates' plan "sounds awesome." He said he was surprised by how much Gates knew about challenges, strategies and successes in public education.
The conference began Wednesday and runs until Sunday. Today's agenda includes speeches by actress Rosario Dawson and CNN political correspondent Van Jones.
Jones also will moderate a town hall meeting that poses the question "What Does Equity Really Mean?" The forum will feature a panel that includes Gordon, Driver, Denver school board member Allegra "Happy" Haynes, Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, CMSD parent Jessica Nelson and high school students Shauntia Adams and Jonathan Chikuru.