Megan Tompkins-Stange: She will be presenting the findings of her recently-published book, Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence. March, 2017.
>> Good afternoon and welcome. I'm Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. And I'm really delighted to welcome you to this afternoon's special event. Today we have one of our book talks at the Ford School featured Ford School's very own assistant professor, Megan Tompkins-Stange and her recently published book, "Policy Patrons." First of all, I hope you were able to help yourself for lunch as you came in. There is plenty of food out there, and so we invite you to help yourself if you have not done so. My colleague Barry Rabe will shortly give a context and a fuller introduction, but it really is my pleasure to graduate Megan on her really impactful and insightful work that she will be presenting to us today. For those of you who don't know, Megan is an extremely popular teacher so I'm not surprised to see many of our students here today. That's always wonderful for us to do. And Megan, of course, is also well respected by her faculty colleagues. And so, it is really a great pleasure for me on behalf of the Ford School faculty to congratulate her on not only her first book, but also on the impact that her work is already having in this policy arena and that I know it will continue to have. So making, congratulations.
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So with no further ado, I'm delighted to welcome Professor Barry Rabe to the podium.
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>> Thank you, Susan. The role of ideas in the public policy process and how those ideas are adopted or not politically, are implemented are not through administrative channels, has been an enduring question in the social sciences and policy sciences at this university and in the evolution of this school. One thinks of the role of the late Michael Cohan, ideas in the policy process, John Kingdon's classic work on policy streams and ideational contributions to policy. And today we celebrate the continuation of that great tradition here at Michigan but with important new directions and twists that are rich for the continued theoretical development of those areas but with profound importance for the development of policy going forward in education policy and more broadly. This book raises the issue, not just what are the ideas, are the ideas good, but who pays for them and who actively promotes them and puts them out there. Particularly the context of foundations, foundations that often are not created through democratic channels but because an individual or a family has created a unique entity known as a foundation that decides to move into the marketplace of creating and encouraging and promoting ideas. There is an enduring American tradition for this, and yet we know remarkably little about how those decisions are made, how agendas are set, how those dollars allocated. And particularly at a moment where we largely anticipate a reduction or retraction of prior commitments by the federal government to funding the business of policy research and idea development, the question of foundations becomes all the more significant. I couldn't help think, reading this wonderful book, not only does this apply to education policy which it so nicely does, but every arena of policy considered by this school. Megan, I really am looking forward to your sequel on climate, energy, and environmental policy because where I sit, the questions that you raised for which I don't think there's been any scholarly response yet, are just timely, significant, and become growing in relevance with the passing of each month. So that is the larger context here. And yet I must say, building on Susan's comments about the author, how extraordinarily fortunate we are at the Ford School, but all readers of this book are or will be, to have a scholar like Megan be the person who put all this together. For those of you who have worked with Megan, you know that she is an exemplary teacher. She is an exemplary scholar in every sense of that term, and it's been a pleasure and a privilege for me to work with her, actually side-by-side for a number of years now and the public management portion of the curriculum. But also watching how this research project has evolved over a number of years, thinking through careful design, of interviews, outreach, case selection, and then developing a framework for this book. This book was in the hands of a very capable and committed scholar, and we here at the Ford School are very, very fortunate on a daily semesterly basis to be able to call Megan a colleague and friend. I certainly am, and please join me in welcoming the author of "Policy Patrons" to the stage. Megan?
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>> Well, that's a nice way to start. Thank you Susan and Barry -- can you guys hear me -- for that really kind and generous introduction. And I am really the one who is honored to get to be a part of this wonderful community. I also want to thank Erin and Cliff and Laura for so beautifully planning this event, for the lovely lunch. I am really excited to share this book with you. Many of you have sort of, again, seen this develop over time in bits and pieces. And my teaching has definitely influenced the sum of these ideas as well as I've worked on them over the years. So I think you'll see a lot of the stuff that I'm interested in and what I actively speak about in class in this book as well. So I'm going to just offer some brief remarks for about the first 15 minutes then we're going to take questions. And I'd like to devote the majority of the time to having active discussion a as those of you who have taken my classes know. So starting with Ripped from the Headlines as I am want to do, New York Times 2010, "States embrace core standards for schools." "Approach to LA unified adopts a value added approach to teacher ratings," Los Angeles times, 2011. "Big paydays in Washington DC schools' merit system," New York Times. "New Mexico could become the first state with preschool funding constitutionally guaranteed." And "personalized learning increases use of computers in class." What do these very distinct and different cases have in common? They are all major policy innovations that have been championed partially or fully funded by private foundations. So core standards, very much a project of the Gates Foundation. LA unified value-added. [Inaudible]. DC [inaudible]. New Mexico Kellogg. Personalized learning. Anybody? No. But good guess. Like Zuckerberg, so this is a new intern into this field, right? So tech philanthropy in Silicon Valley. But major policy issues in education, the way core curriculum is developed and implemented on a national scale. The way the teachers are evaluated and paid in this case through [inaudible] compensation. The way that initiatives are funded at the state level. In the core technologies through which we deliver student learning. All driven by large private foundations. So just to illustrate this -- a picture is worth a thousand words -- Arnie Duncan and Eli Brode. Here we have Arnie. Arnie figures large in this actually. [Inaudible] from the Kellogg Foundation. There is Darren Walker from Ford. The Minnesota Federation of Teachers. And here's Barack Obama with the Gates'. And Mark and Priscilla. And then, of course, our very own Michigan resident, Betsy DeVos. That was an interesting day. I woke up to about 100 texts. But again, coming back to Barry's point, very timely in terms of policymakers coming to the fore through their philanthropic giving and advocacy work. So private power in the public romp. So the context matters. As Barry said, the supplies and all areas of policy, but the area in which I routed it is public education, K-12 education. It's core. This is very much, maybe until recently, a democratically governed state function, right? It is a tool. It is an institution of the government, okay? But it's been strongly impacted by foundation involvement. I actually argue in the book that there is no sector more impacted than education in terms of philanthropic investment. And this has been true since the dawn of time.
You know, foundations have been around for about 110 years. From the very first grants, public education was a priority, a favorite of philanthropists. And this has become even more amplified the last two decades because there are large entrants, such as Gates, into this field. And there's also been a huge growth of what we call may go foundations mega-foundations, so foundations that have in excess of $1 billion in their endowment. So just to put a little bit -- This is all interesting too because, as some of you know, there are significant legal restrictions on what foundations can and cannot do. They can't lobby at all in contrast to other 501(c)(3) organizations. A lot of what they do is kind of behind-the-scenes undercover. And that also shows why there's very limited scholarship on this topic, especially contemporaneously, because any work that you can do on this is done through archives after everyone has departed or passed away who are the relevant actors. So very, very limited contemporary work on foundations' policy engagement. So this leads me to kind of the question of the book, the main core question. How and why do large philanthropic conditions seek to influence public education policy, K-12? And this is motivated by the fact that empirically we do know that larger foundations are much more likely to want to influence policy as a core strategic lever four times more than smaller foundations. So this is a really big deal for our largest foundations that are rapidly growing as well. So here is just a picture of education funders [inaudible] . In '95, there are only about 16 foundations that had in excess of $1 billion. In 2010, it was more like 160. And then there was an additional group of foundations that have more than $100 million -- that's gone way, way up as well in 2010. This is giving by education funders. So back in 2000, about 500 million, but it's gone rapidly up almost exponentially. We don't have the data crunched get to really know, but the proportion of giving to policy related work, policy and advocacy strategies, has also gone way, way, way up. So time will tell if this really is an exponential trend, but we do know that it's quadrupled in the past 15 years, okay? So the methods for this book -- it's a qualitative study, a cross-case comparative analysis. I elected to look at four of the largest education funders who are active in policy, so four of the top 20. I conducted semi-structured open-ended interviews over a period of about five year, wound up having about 60. They're all confidential. They're all anonymous. I've gotten some heat for this from people in the foundation world, but it's a long-standing tradition in qualitative research that if you give people a mask, they will tell you the truth, especially in such a sensitive politically fraught area where foundations actually can get in big trouble for doing too much political work. I talked to very high level people at these foundations, presidents, policy officers, program officers, legal counsel. And I also talked to a selection of national grantee organizations of these foundations, people who are in charge of national associations or major nonprofits as well as some policymakers. I also conducted extensive archival analysis, looking at the grants databases of these foundations. And I also had an 18 month period of participant observation, where I actually, during grad school, worked at a large foundation that will remain nameless, and first-hand experienced some of this tension in terms of philanthropists being very involved in influencing agenda setting in the policy process of education. So the four foundations that I chose -- actually, that I had access to, but that's another story -- Gates, Broad, Kellogg, and Ford. So they vary in terms of location. They vary in terms of endowment. As you see, Gates dwarfs everybody else. These are still of the top 20 foundations who fund education. Gates and Broad, founded in the late 90s, the first Silicon Valley technological boom, right? Which you guys, I have learned, are too young to remember in some cases, which makes me feel so old. I was in college. Whereas Kellogg and Ford found in the 30s. So think John Dewey, very progressive era. And part of my argument in the book is that these foundation strategies now, when it comes to policy, are very much imprinted with the norms that were present at their founding dates. And so, Gates and Broad, again, founded recently. They both have living benefactors. Their ethos, their values, their strategies are very much steeped in technologically motivated market-based entrepreneurial logic. Whereas Kellogg and Ford, much older, no living benefactors -- their norms tend to be more about using words like social justice, civic engagement, community engagement. And what's interesting and what initially drew me into this study is, given this tension of what foundations can or cannot do politically, they have very different comfort levels. So Broad and Ford are very similar in that they're very assertive, very unapologetic. Ford has been doing social justice work since they started. They were the main foundation in the 60s that was funding progressive racial equity work and they actually got in trouble for that with Congress in the late 60s, which is what instituted those political restrictions in the first place. Broad has always been all about policy. [Inaudible] says we do it. That's how we're going to get things done. Whereas gates, prior to 2008, and Kellogg are much more reticence, much more cautious, much more like the quote someone said was, "We don't want to touch that heater because it might get too hot." They want to influence policy and they are very active in doing it. They don't want to put their own name brand on it. They prefer to go through their grantees. And then Gates, since 2008, has been much more active, and that reflects a policy window opening, right? The Obama administration comes on. But still cautious, they're very much about their legal counsel, making sure all the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed and they got their P's and Q's and every other letter of the alphabet going on, right? So they are very much about we're going to do it -- we're going to walk right up to the line. And that's Bill Gates' own words about their policy strategy. So this is a study again that took place over about five years. I used a grounded theory approach, which those of you in my quality of methods class may be familiar with. I socially went into these foundations knowing not much about them other than the types of grants they made and the program areas that they had. I didn't know anything about their norm. Again, there's not a lot of literature about how and why people do things. So this is all presented as a pretty little package of four things. That came from years and years of back-end work. That bubbled up from the data in an iterative way, okay? So the key questions that emerged from that was that there were differences between these foundations in terms of how they manage grantees, in terms of partners that they prefer to work with, in terms of how they frame problems and solutions, and in terms of how they evaluate results. So four engaged policy actors -- very different ways. In one of my informants, he said this. "There are basically two kinds of foundations." I heard this over and over again in different capacities from different people. So the conceptual framework that I developed as a result of this research, I saw that same thing as well from an empirical perspective, and I termed these two types of foundations and their contrasting modes of policy engagement, outcome focused and field focused. So again, on the left we have those four main themes or questions. And then we have the contrasting ways of going about their work. So I'm going to throw some quotes at you. I don't want to just put them all on the slide for you to read, because that would be really awkward. So instead, I'm just going to dictate them to you here. So managing grantees centralized top-down versus decentralized bottom-up. This is one of the policy initiatives managed at the foundation level, and they choose grantees and enroll them into a project where the policy goals are already set at the foundation level. Whereas a decentralized is much more bottom-up, right? The foundation delegates more control to people in the field to decide on their own relevant policy targets. Preferred partners, the outcome focused foundations like to work primarily with elites. That's what they think moves the initiative best and efficiently. And people in the study over and over again called this grass-tops approach as opposed to grassroots, in case that wasn't obvious. Field focused foundations, polar opposite. They prefer to start with grassroots organizations with people in communities, students, parents, teachers, right? As opposed to an elite or an expert driven agenda. Framing problems and solutions -- this is a characterization that I've borrowed from a scholar called Heifetz at Harvard. Technical problems are those that are amenable to technical solutions, right? That you can say, X leads to Y in a causal relationship. You can bring certain interventions to bear, and you know what the solution to the problem is, right? It's a more engineering based mindset.
Whereas adaptive, problems are seen as much more complex, multifaceted, involving more culture, social context, power differentials, things that are not necessarily in a regression equation, looking at my husband here. And then similarly, evaluate a result, quantifiable means that foundations are primarily wanting their results to be quantifiable. They want to see their impact expressed in calculable metrics, right? Whereas the integrative approach -- and again, this is something I borrowed from Liz Schorr at the Center of Study of Social Policy -- these foundations use both qualitative and quantitative metrics to show, to build a plausible and defensible case for their interventions as opposed to establishing proof. So some examples from each one. For managing grantees: Outcome focused foundations, one person says, "We treat our grantees as contractors." Right? We formulate a goal and we hire people to fulfill it. On the field focused side: "I am not going to do what 95% of foundations do, which is come up with the answer and sell it." Ford Foundation. Preferred partners, outcome focused: "The first order of business was leveraging at the highest level the people who had the most influence. We're going to the superintendents. We're going to the mayors. We're going to the senators in the state government." Field focused -- Someone just [inaudible]. Who was that? Someone's read the book? I hope so. Field focused: "If there's a policy direction that grows out of our work, it's come all the way through the bottom and up to the top." Right? So again, that's similar to the managing grantees but it's about grassroots. That's the Kellogg person talking. Framing problems: Someone from Gates in outcome focused approach. "We're technocrats. We wish there was an app for that." Field focused: "It's about building a field as opposed to injecting a specific idea or a specific technical solution. It's what some people might call old school." Kellogg and Ford, remember, from the 30s. And finally, evaluating results. Outcome focused: "To give money to a school, our benefactor, which is Eli Broad, needs to see the test scores rise at least 5% after one year." Gates: "Our outcomes were to get public policies changed." Kellogg: "Rather than just say the victory is the policy, we need a more complete picture of all the things that need to work to get that outcome we're looking for." Okay, so very, very distinct. Again, this by no means is a one-size-fits-all, everyone fits in their own little box. As I said before, there are a lot of different elements that each foundation involves. They might be more reticent with policy influence, but they might be doing a field-focused approach or an outcome-focused approach, right? So broadly speaking, Gates and Broad fall into this category of outcome-focused and Ford and Kellogg fall into the field-focused. But there's elements in which Ford especially is more outcome-focused, and there's elements in which Gates is increasingly more field-focused, which I'll talk about in a minute. A main theme throughout the book is that the outcome focused approach is dominant. It's a common sense call at this point. We are at a very managerial society. We've all been marinating in this approach for 30 years. They have 30 years of neoliberalism, the new public management. A couple quotes: This is one from Gates. "It still seems like there was a little talk about field-driven versus strategic grant-making 10 or 15 years ago. There are still a few places here and there that do that kind of field-based grant-making, but there are really few and far between." So describing kind of a convergence of approaches towards a much more outcome oriented approach. "Has a common sense of appeal to a particular mindset, and that's of course, an MBA." Also affected at Gates and Broad. Market oriented. Focusing on charter schools, competition, accountability, performance metric. Derived from market principles, right? And then this has implications. As we talked about before a little bit, foundations are largely unaccountable, so they're very active in policy but they can't get voted out of office. They don't sell a product that people can stop buying. There are literally only accountable to the IRS, which can come after them for their tax-exempt status if they overstep. That has never happened once in 40 years of these regulations, 50 years almost. So they have very few meaningful mechanisms of accountability. And so, this is what winds up happening in this case. This is an interesting quote because this is someone from Gates talking about this in a very self reflective way. "There was this twinkle in the eye of a senior staff member at Gates when Obama's education policy framework comes out. And they said, 'Aren't we lucky that the administration's education agenda is so compatible with ours?' And then there came the twinkle. We wouldn't take credit out loud even amongst ourselves. But, you know, the twinkle." So there's alignment and convergence, and a lot of this is due to, again, that elite focused approach, building closely coupled relationships. At one point, someone told me an anecdote about someone from the Gates Foundation coming to talk at the Department of Education and they had a Freudian slip and referred to it as the Gates administration which is everyone fell on the floor laughing because it's funny because it's true. So again, a lot of influence on what comes to the fore of the agenda in a public realm but having very little accountability for it. And this same Gates person said, "We have this enormous power to sway public conversations about certain issues, and we can mobilize lots of resources without robust debate. It's striking to me." Okay? And here's what gets super interesting, at least to me. The outcome focused foundations, their alignment with elites in policy initially cost a lot of impact, a lot of impact. This is from the Broad Foundation's Annual Report. "We feel the stars have finally aligned. With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments, Obama is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition that seed that we have planted." Okay, someone from Ford talking about the work that Gates and Broad have done. "A national core curriculum, like the common core, that was like the third rail. You just don't touch that in American politics. But now we have a common core, and we are moving towards a common protocol for teacher evaluations." Mind you, this was a quote from 2012. So we know how the story ends, which I'll talk about in a minute, right? Someone from The Urban Institute: "I'm amazed at what they've done. Look at how education is a high priority item in this country. It's singularly because of Gates and Broad." So they were able to get things on the agenda to move elite interests towards their chosen or their preferred models of social reform, right? But as the last couple of years have shown -- even just the last year which was crazy because this was all happening as I was finishing the book, and I'm, like, stop, stop, I can't even handle this, right? There was a huge backlash, those of you who are familiar with that policy are familiar with, right? So Every Student Succeeds Act. President Obama signs this in December 2015. This is essentially a referendum on most of the stuff that Gates and Broad has worked on for the last decade. It devolves a lot of control back to the states. It essentially dismantles their work on the common core, leaving that to the states as well as opposed to being more of a federal mandate. And also a huge backlash against high-stakes testing, the value-added evaluation. So this all happens, and then Gates Foundation issues a mea culpa. So this is from their annual letter in June 2016 from Sue Desmond-Hellman, who was their CO. "We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators, also parents and communities. This has been a challenging lesson for us to absorb, but we take it to heart." Female jaws dropped all around the world, right? This is really interesting that Gates is not doing this. And then, Melinda Gates saying in the Washington Post, "Community buy-in is huge. It means that in some ways, you have to go more slowly." This could not be more distinct from what they were doing for the past 10 years. It is striking, okay? And then Randi Weingarten again, "Gates is now moving away from a top-down managerial approach." [Inaudible], told you, but great. I kid.
What's the balance? I think this is really the core question coming out of the book and that also motivates me in my work. So this is another Gates informant. I apologize for all the lengthy quotes. This will be one of the last ones. "How do you establish a bottom-up versus top-down mix? This is a puzzle we've never resolved. Is very tricky -- at the beginning, we were too top-down. Bottom-up seldom came up with breakthrough thinking. The higher risk, what was possible without constraints, types of ideas. The big think things came from a tight group of people with a blank sheet of paper." Or as one of my informants described it, six guys in a room with two McKinsey consultants," and just putting it all out there, right? People really start talking when they have a mask, I will say. "A bottom-up approach --" So this is a national nonprofit leader very well known. "A bottom-up approach is a more effective way to do policy change in philanthropy, because in the long run you really need to have that democratic element to make it stick." And this is the argument I'm seeing now. That democratic engagement, civic engagement, community rootedness is desirable because it makes the outcomes more effective, because again that's an outcome-focused approach. Whereas a field focused approach, it's more in their DNA. They're progressive. Their core norms are about community engagement. So again, they're doing the same thing but for different reasons, okay? So that leaves us with all sorts of things we can talk about. As Barry said, the role of in this new policy world that we are in. Anything you guys would like to talk? I really appreciate your engagement and I look forward to answering questions.
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Yes? I don't know your name, I'm sorry.
>> My name is Javier. I was just wondering, do these foundations have political alignments and how does that --?
>> The question was, for the live stream, do these foundations have political alignments? Progressive versus conservative? Yeah. So the top 20 foundations are mostly progressive in nature. Gates is sort of more neutral. Broad is very unapologetically progressive or liberal. Kellogg and Ford are the same. So they're all on the progressive end of the scale. Foundations are not supposed to have an outfront political alignment. They can't say, "We support Donald Trump" or "We support Hillary Clinton." That's not allowed. But we see a lot of evidence of the benefactors of the foundations. They're giving us private citizens -- tends to align more with the Democratic Party. Does that make sense? Yes, what's your name?
>> Jeremy, thank you.
>> I'm a senior, and I was wondering, what do you think are the biggest educational changes that they're trying to push kind of at this moment? And which foundations are kind of really leading the charge?
>> That's a really good question. You know, a year ago my response would have been a lot different. I think after this whole, you know, the ESA and backlash to common core and value-added, paper are kind of in a holding position, especially given the election and DeVos being appointed. It there is just a sense like we don't know to do and we need to figure this out because the same rules of not applying. So what I have seen is, again going back to Zuckerberg [inaudible] initiative, they actually hired someone who was at the Department of Education and prior to that was at Gates. So going in sort of that same vein, which very much aligns with an outcome-focused approach, they have embraced personalized learning. So again, like personalizing lessons online and with computers to students, a very technical approach, one that is not necessarily dependent on policy wins. I would hypothesize that perhaps that's a reaction to feeling like we have no control over the political realm and want to do something that's more contained. Does that make sense? Essie?
>> To what extent do these elite powerful foundations work together or are they sort of competing [inaudible]?
>> Yes, so the question was to what extent do these foundations sort of collaborate, collude, compete, all the different C's. Yeah, so it's a great question. Gates traditionally has kind of framed itself as "we don't work with other people." But they do, but they kind of don't like to be tied to other people's brands in case something goes wrong. Broad works a lot with Gates and Walton. They're kind of like the big three. You know, Diane Roberts calls them the billionaire boys' club. Kellogg and Ford tend to be more -- like they will be part of national coalitions of like 15 or 16 foundations to do things, especially Kellogg, because they're very uncomfortable being in the public eye and they kind of like -- the words that one informant used was "they like to kind of water it down a bit" by being one of 15 funders on an initiative. So again, the quote that I kept hearing is, "You've met when foundation, you've met one foundation." I think that's very true. It just really kind of depends on the culture and the staff and the sort of norms that the benefactor sat down, even 80 years ago. Yeah, [Inaudible]?
>> So the story is a bit depressing. [Inaudible] this auditor, it seems like take a top-down approach and elite approach and risk very serious backlash which actually defeats the whole policy program. Or take a bottom-up approach, build community, etc., but so contingent, you never know the outcome that you desire.
>> Yeah. And it's messy. The democratic process is very messy, right?
>> Think it's diverted. So do you have any examples that you can cite for us where there has been a top-down approach by a foundation where the policy has stuck, the presumably lightened policy has stuck and has been overcome by the kind of backlash we're seeing now?
>> That's a great question. So the question was are there examples of the sort of non-binary sort of top-down versus bottom-up, depressing versus non-depressing? Yeah, so actually the Ford Foundation is probably the example I would point to as having been the most effective because they're really deliberate about balancing those two things. So they are working directly with elites, directly with policymakers. You know, half of the cabinet of John F. Kennedy's presidency was drawn directly from the Ford Foundation. They called it a revolving door, right? So they're very much closely coupled with that, but they also are very, very deliberate about having this much more field-oriented approach with grantees and also with communities. So they have people going into the field. They hire people from these communities, not just people from Harvard, right? So they kind of try to balance that. And that's manifested in a lot of different ways, not so much their recent education work, which has been focused around getting policies passed that are about extended learning time, so longer school days and longer school years. But it has been effective in terms of some of their more historically famous work in terms of the civil rights movement. They were instrumental in the Civil Rights Act, getting that passed, supporting people who were going to, you know, Freedom Summer in 1964, that sort of thing. But again, it's very behind the scenes. They've also been really successful in the 70s with school finance reform, which you would never know about, right? So they are, again, working with elites and experts, developing new studies in scholarship that will influence the ideas, and also working directly with teachers on the ground. So I think they're the best example I can think of, at least in these large foundations, one that's striking that balance pretty well. Adorno?
>> My question is about the point you made around accountability for some of these organizations, and the influence they have in the public sphere. What is the discussion around maybe trying to intervene [inaudible]?
>> So the question is are there efforts to limit foundations' influence in the public sphere. It's a really great question. There have been periodic efforts to do that over the past hundred years. First one was in like 1912. Foundations were under fire for supporting the Ludlow massacre when they had the Walsh Commission. So that was robber barons, right? They were worried about robber barons being philanthropists. In the 50s, it was communism. It's kind of the opposite, like are these foundations fermenting communism? In the 60s, it was, wow, the Ford Foundation is holding voter registration drives in black neighborhoods in Cleveland. Right? So there's been efforts by Congress to sort of censure them, and the most effective of those was the late 60s when they said, "Here are the political regulations." Since then, there are periodic little blips. You know, there's talk now about Citizens United, maybe foundations should be able to lobby just like everyone else. But then, there's the perennial argument that they're tax exempt and so they shouldn't be subsidized by the government for being political, right? They're supposed to be more neutral. But what I did get from my various interviews is that people think one of these waves is coming, right? So there hasn't been a big wave since the late 1960s. And all the signs kind of point to the same conditions that were at stake then. There's a lot of income inequality and energy around that. People are kind of questioning why should these foundations be tax-exempt, and you know, basically be taking money that would otherwise be in the treasury and holding them in these huge endowments. So comes in the form of more, "Let's increase the payout rate." You know, all foundations have to give 5% of their assets annually. People said, "Let's raise that to 10%, or let's mandate that these foundations sunset," which means that they have to close after 25 years and they have to spend down. But nothing really major except for those little things. So I wouldn't be surprised if something comes up soon. Yes? Your name?
>> So there's a cynical take on the Broad and Gates with which they [inaudible] not only did they kind of mis-estimate what they were doing, but they were inspired to do so perhaps by alliances with testing companies or with people who are very excited to buy or sell iPads in every classroom. And there is circumstantial evidence for this, say in Chicago or LA, where this kind of intensive intermingling between these [inaudible] or Chicago or Renaissance [inaudible] whatever, and executives and tech companies and testing companies. So on your experience around these philanthropies, what evidence do you see for the kind of most cynical account of what these philanthropies may have gotten on?
>> It's a great question. The question was what evidence am I seeing of a more cynical or less cynical view towards these foundations' work? Are they sort of aligned with corporate interests, have other things in mind besides the public good? It's a hot debate honestly always. I think of the last five years, it's taken up a lot more energy, and it's also become less marginalized as a viewpoint. It used to be, oh my gosh, the corporate reformers are just wanting to make money off the poor children. I think there's less of that now, partially because the mainstream view has shifted left. I have my personal opinion from looking at these for so many years, is that I personally don't find that in these foundations. I'm sure there are foundations in which that's happening, but I do think that the people in these foundations do have very good intentions. I think they have blind spots about privilege and power and wealth and their lack of knowledge about effective communities. But in terms of a very cynical view about everyone wants to profit or make test profit off of these companies or massive testing, I'm sure some of that comes into play. But I honestly don't think that it infuses their work. I think that they are ethical actors who make some mistakes in terms of their execution as opposed to fundamentally bad human beings. Does that make sense? Yes, back here?
>> So in looking at the [inaudible] foundations that you've laid out specifically I guess with regards to evaluating [inaudible], did you learn any differences or come across any differences in terms of the attention they paid to the policy from an engagement process [inaudible] policies within [inaudible]?
>> Yeah. It's a great question. The question was, what's the difference between attention paid to sort of the agenda setting phase of policy, and then more implementation? It was a divided along these two lines. So the outcome-focused foundations tended to be more about sort of the big picture. Let's get people on board, let's quickly move the policy, and [inaudible] again contract out the implementation. So that lack of attention to the implementation, I think that's why they didn't see that they needed to engage political strategy on the ground. Whereas Kellogg and Ford were very much about the implementation and sort of having longer term relationships with their grantees that enabled them to think through those things more at the outside. Yes?
>> My name is [Inaudible]. What's your opinion on individualized study and how do you think that will impact student and teacher evaluations in the future along with the common core?
>> Yeah, so personalized learning -- What's my opinion, and how will that influence evaluation? That's a more higher [inaudible] question, but I like it. Yeah, it applies everywhere. You know, I am not cynical. I am skeptical because there have been so many iterations of the same sort of idea. So in the outcome focused foundations, they tend to be focusing more on structural reforms. In the early 2000s, it was let's make the schools small or let's make the classes small, and that's going to be what fixes education. It's about class size. And now, it's about students need more individualization of their lesson plans, work at their own pace. We can cut a lot of waste through technology. I personally, given that I am, you know, someone who has studied a lot of John Dewey and education policy -- I personally, my biased view is that I don't think it's a scalable solution to fix all of education. I think that there's a place for personalized learning but I'm skeptical of efforts to make it such a central component of some public schools. And that's really happening in California right now, mostly due to Gates and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Yeah, the trend towards quantifiable teacher evaluations -- there's a lot of empirical evidence about how those can be skewed against women or faculty of color and it creates bad incentives to people to give better grades. It's an [inaudible]. Certainly, personalized learning will provide more of that granular data that can influence how people are evaluated as teachers. Yeah, it's a really good question. I'll have to think more about that. I haven't made that connection to teacher evaluations specifically. Erica?
>> So one of the biggest problems that I have heard all the time in education is teacher pay. Do you think foundations have any role in such an infrastructure level problem in education, or did any of the foundations you spoke to speak to that?
>> Yeah. So the question from Erica was merit pay, differential compensation is a big deal, and has been for a while. What was the second part of the question?
>> Do foundations have a role?
>> Do foundations have a role? Yeah, I mean, it's a great example. Like the historical literature on foundations and sort of some of the normative arguments about the role of foundations is that foundations are supposed to be like the research and development arm of society. Paul [inaudible], who was a famous Ford Foundation president, calls it America's passing gear. So you those of you who like to drive stick, which I don't. Yeah, it has discretionary capital that the government doesn't. The government can't experiment on the public dime. They have to serve the median voter, right? So foundations have the luxury of being able to pilot innovations get scaled up, and then maybe the best ones will get scaled up for broader implementations. So that's kind of in the historical role of foundations. And that's the role that Broad has played with it differential compensation in Denver and in DC. They had philanthropic money paying out this effectiveness pay for teachers in both those cities, and then eventually those reforms got incorporated into the teacher contracts. And that was more of a ground-up strategy. They actually did work with teachers and with teachers' unions to do that. So I have no problem at all with foundations investing in those sorts of pilot programs. I do have a problem when it becomes wholesale policy, especially in environments that are perpetually cash strapped, because what resource deprived public school system is going to say, "Sorry Gates, don't want your pilot funding," right? It's almost a false choice. So that's my concern. There's a power differential. Everyone says, "Oh, those who elect, no wrong can be done to them," but I think a foundation grant from the Gates or a Broad is more than just financial capital. It's also prestige. It's social connections. It's political capital as well. So that's my biased opinion. Yes?
>> So [inaudible] kind of begs the question, why do we have this like new weird legal category of a foundation in the first place, and from what Julie has discussed, should we continue with it?
>> Great question. And so, the question was, why do we have this weird thing -- this weird, very American category of private foundations, and should we have it? I mean, I think that's a really important point that's starting to come more to the fore. I mean, it's a very odd thing. I mean, foundations were only differentiated from other 501(c)(3)'s in 1969. Public charities can lobby, they can advocate up to about 25% of their budget, but nations can't do that at all. And that is the only distinction in the tax code. And that grows out of a particular congressman, Bob Patton from Texas, having a real vendetta against foundations because he thought that they were funding his challengers in the political arena. So that's where that restriction came from. It's very arbitrary. There's no kind of historical precedent for it. But now we're seeing kind of the opposite. We're seeing Chan Zuckerberg, for example. You guys think that was a 501(c)(3)? He gave $45 million to an LLC. And that's a new form of philanthropic investment called impact investing, and that gives you more leeway. You don't have to limit yourself in terms of lobbying. You don't have to just make grants. You can make investments much like you would in a regular company. And so, at least among sort of new entrants to the space, that's becoming -- slow you're starting to see that more in terms of what they elect to do. They're not just going for the private foundation anymore. Maybe they're going to a donor advised fund at a large mutual fund where they have some control but they don't have the overhead of a foundation. So the model that we see that started in 1910 is -- Again, we don't have enough data to make generalizations, but we're certainly seeing a lot of really interesting things happening that I didn't see five years ago. And I think it's very contested terrain, and in some cases it's happening as I speak. It's a very dynamic field right now. I mean, not that I have $45 billion, but if I did, I would probably think very hard about putting it into an LLC. You don't get the tax benefits, but assuming you have $45 billion, it's probably not going to be that big of a deal. Gives you more freedom, gives you less stress about, oh my gosh, are we going to get censured by the IRS? So I think a lot of people are starting to explore alternative models or institutions in terms of how they give money away. Yes?
>> Zuckerberg and his philanthropic colleagues raised upwards of $100 million for Newark city schools, and enrollment there is a little bit less than what it is in the Detroit public schools now. Ad originally Mayor Booker and Governor Christie were very, very sympathetic. But I think after five years or so, there's pretty much consensus that that money had many more minimal effects than one anticipates since it was a rather large amount of money for 45,000 student [inaudible]. You'd think that that will have an effect on these large foundations. I mean, depending upon their charter, they can get out of supporting education and go back to buying Monet's and [inaudible]. Is there a consequence of the Newark experience for these large foundations?
>> That's a really great question. So the question was, this high-profile case of Newark public schools getting $100 million from Mark Zuckerberg in concert with Chris Christie and Cory Booker. Dale Russakoff wrote about this in a great book called "The Gift." Basically showed that that money mostly was tied up in bureaucracy and funding consultants, and that very little of it got to the classroom and the students. I mean, I think absolutely. I think for Zuckerberg in particular, that lesson has meant that he's not putting his money into a foundation. He is still giving money. He gave $120 million to bay area public schools like around Redwood City in California. So it's not like he's not getting that money. He's just doing it in a different way that allows him, I think, more leeway and not having to -- Again, it's about disruption. It's like not having to work with the messy bureaucratic state. It's more efficient, it's more effective. He could do more things under his own control. So yeah, I think a lot of these sort of big laudable gifts that get a lot of media attention, people are thinking about it in a more nuanced way as opposed to, yes, this money will fix. And again, it's a drop in the bucket, right? $100 million against what a school district actually needs to survive and overcome these major issues. Again, it's not a technical solution. Yes?
>> What strategies do you see as the grass tops foundations moving towards as they try to become more grassroots oriented? And particularly, how are they trying to avoid Astroturfing when they have the appearance of community support but [inaudible]?
>> Yeah, so the question is, what are these outcome-focused foundations doing to be more field-focused, and is there a danger that that's Astroturfing, sort of appearing to do it but kind of co-opting the actual value to have that appearance but not necessarily doing things that are substantive. Yeah, I mean, again it's very recent. It's only been since late 2015-2016 that I'm seeing this from Gates. What I'm seeing is more language and verbiage coming from the CEO about we need to be more humble. One of Gates' core values at the put on every wall is "We need to be humble and mindful." But I think they're actually freeing more efforts to do more like implicit biased awareness, like actually focusing on issues of race and power, which were previously unmentionables in many foundations. New schools [inaudible] didn't even think about that. Huge blind spot, right? But important in terms of a more bottom-up approach. I've seen a couple instances where Bill Gates has gone to meet with teachers in various cities and says, "We really need to learn from you." So he's doing some of that. I don't know if it's happened more than two or three times but I think, you know, that's happening. Broad is an interesting example because they are very top-down as well, but they do in certain instances have more engagement on the ground. So like in New Orleans, they've been instrumental in converting New Orleans to charter. And people have different opinions about that, but they have worked on the ground quite a bit with schools, parents, and those kind of community rooted strategies. But again, I think time will tell. I don't know, I mean, it's a really interesting question because I think if you're doing it to get better outcomes and it's not really a core part of your -- institutional DNA was the phrase I kept hearing -- harder to maintain that I really root that in the culture and have the staff take ownership over it.
>> My name is Jeff. In your research, is there a lot that came up out of some of the evaluation think tanks, or even with the academic research that comes out of it? And I say this because you don't hear a lot of negative results coming from some of the evaluation studies from the research that comes out. And I worry about some of the [inaudible] and faculty that live off of some of its own money that [inaudible] provides. And so, I just wanted to know what your feelings were about [inaudible] for higher ed, but also for the foundation [inaudible].
>> Yeah, so the question was, what's the role of sort of these think tanks producing evidence, academic researchers not necessarily publishing, discrepant results. So kind of into that point about an echo chamber where funding everyone who does advocacy and all these organizations singing from the same hymn book are all getting money from us. I mean, that's actually a good plug, because I am now writing a book about that, with a friend from Michigan State University, Sarah Reckhow, who is just brilliant, brilliant political scientist. And that project looks at how research on teacher evaluation is used to influence policy. And it draws a distinction between more like think tank advocacy research and academic research. And we show through various network models how we basically trace an infrastructure in which this research travels and to what extent it's taken up and why, and by whom. So we're doing both interviews and discourse network analysis. So I mean, the empirical evidence, there isn't a lot about it in the foundation world. But in other fields, there's been quite a lot of evidence that the think tank stuff if it's funded by a foundation, more likelihood that it's going to be offering a less nuanced view, right? That's what are the characteristics of advocacy research, is that it doesn't waffle or waiver. Right, whereas an academic piece might say, "My hunch is [inaudible], there is uncertainty here. This is not the answer." Or its advocacy research might say, "Value added is a right way to do things. Does that make sense?" So stay tuned for those results. Are we doing okay on time?
>> So, Jeremy again, and I just would be very interested in your opinion because you probably know so much more than I will ever know about this --
>> Maybe not.
>> And I was just interested in how you viewed education and what policies have actually worked, and specifically --
>> Put me on the spot.
>> For lower income families?
>> So, my question was my personal or scholarly opinions about what has worked in education, I know it hasn't worked. And what hasn't worked is over quantification of test scores. You see what happened in Atlanta. There's a huge cheating scandal, and that is because there were certain high-stakes cutoffs that the schools had to meet in order to be making adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind. One of my informants called it, "Make the indicator of an outcome, the outcome [inaudible] of itself." So the outcome is supposed to be student learning. But the indicator is the test score, but the test score becomes what we're actually going towards. Campbell's law, the more quantitative you make an indicator, the more likely it is that you can game it or that you will game it." So there's that. I also think there's been some really interesting research lately about how important race of the teacher is to students in low income schools. Like exposure to a black male teacher in elementary school, something like 40% more likely, controlling for all these other variables, that students would go on to college. So race matters a lot, and that's kind of latebreaking news. So I don't know of the specifics. I need to find that study, but yeah, I think efforts to have teachers that look like the children that they'e teaching are really fruitful and promising. I think efforts to continue to pay teachers more and respect them and make their profession valued and compensated therein. I mean, that's my little armchair theory of what's going to work. We pay the teachers more, we respect them, we diversify that profession, and have a more field-focused approach quite honestly. That's what I came to at the end of writing this book, although I didn't go it with that. Yeah, I kind of drank the Kool-Aid about the outcome-focused first and then I had a different opinion. I think we're at time. Thank you so much for the wonderful discussion.
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