Gates Funding Spurs Doubts Over Pubmedia’s Impartiality in Education Reporting

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Public radio journalists find themselves navigating an ethical gray area as they receive funds for reporting on education from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has become an influential and controversial force in steering national education policy.

The foundation has supported public radio and TV journalism for years, backing coverage of global health, another priority for its philanthropy, as well as education. Within the past year, it has extended that commitment with $1.8 million in support to NPR for expanded education reporting. It also gave $639,000 to American Public Media for multiplatform coverage of education technology, to be featured on Marketplace’s broadcasts and website. In previous years, the Gates Foundation has also supported Frontline, PBS NewsHour and Teaching Channel, a nonprofit producer of public TV programming.

But as the funder has continued to back reporting on education issues, it and billionaire founder Bill Gates have increasingly become part of the story. According to a June Washington Post report, the Gates Foundation has spent more than $233 million to promote national adoption of Common Core standards. Now being implemented in public schools, the learning goals have met with growing criticism from lawmakers, educators and parents. Conservatives argue that the standards amount to excessive meddling from the federal government; liberals and some educators identify pitfalls in Common Core’s reliance on standardized testing. Read more>>