Moeller co-authors op-ed: ‘Gates Foundation’s tactics to remake public education during pandemic are undemocratic’

UW–Madison’s Kathryn Moeller co-authored an op-ed that was recently published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy headlined, “Gates Foundation’s tactics to remake public education during pandemic are undemocratic.”

Moeller is an assistant professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies, and the author of “The Gender Effect: Capitalism, Feminism, and the Corporate Politics of Development.” The op-ed is co-authored with Rebecca Tarlau, an assistant professor of education and labor and employment relations at Pennsylvania State University.


The op-ed from Moeller and Tarlau begins: “During one of his recent daily press briefings, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that his state will work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to ‘reimagine’ its school system. Cuomo presented this as a grand opportunity to transform learning through technology and significantly alter ‘the old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom and teaches that class … in all these physical classrooms.’

“While there is a place for educational technology in U.S. schools and classrooms, Governor Cuomo’s announcement, including a call for greater reliance on virtual classrooms, reflects the power of foundations to propose technical solutions to high-stakes political debates on educational equity and quality. As a nation, we must be wary of foundations capitalizing on political opportunities created by crises such as Covid-19 to assert their influence over public education.”

The two close their op-ed by writing: “While reimagining and redistributing educational resources and opportunities is imperative, research shows that philanthropic experts often work to find technical solutions to systemic inequities without addressing their underlying causes. If we are to truly transform our nation’s inequitable educational system, turning to philanthropists with a track record of failing to improve public education is not the answer.

“Many teachers are already engaged in collective discussions about their working conditions and student learning during and after the pandemic. In response to Governor Cuomo’s announcement, a group of New York City teachers organized an #ImagineSchools Facebook campaign, which calls for small class sizes, culturally relevant instruction, and black and ethnic studies. Educators, students, families, and communities are the ones with the most to lose, and they must determine how to develop our shared future after the pandemic. At the very least, they deserve to be at the table to choose who leads these efforts rather than hearing about it in a daily briefing after the deal has been closed.”

To learn much more about this important, nuanced topic, check out the full opinion piece from Moeller and Tarlau via this Chronicle of Philanthropy web page.