How the “Billionaire Boys Club” Shaped Education in 2014

How the “Billionaire Boys Club” Shaped Education in 2014

by Matthew Lynch, Ed.D.

In today’s educational landscape there are a lot of players vying for influence over the future of America’s P-20 educational system. Of these players, none have been as influential as the “Billionaire Boys Club.” To be in this club, you have to have a net worth of $1 billion dollars, and be a staunch advocate for P-20 education reform, whether through a foundation, or some other form of activism. I was impressed by the philanthropic acts of this group in 2014 and wanted to take a few minutes to highlight some of their biggest accomplishments this year.

Mark Zuckerberg donated $120 million to San Francisco Public Schools.

This is not the first time that Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have donated money to public education. In 2010, the couple donated $100 million to schools in Newark, N.J. As part of that deal, then-mayor Cory Booker had to front an additional $100 million in matching funds, sought out through other private donations. The impact of Zuckerberg’s gift will certainly set a precedent for future donations and the principle surrounding them.

Howard Schultz promises a free college education to Starbucks employees.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced the company’s plan to provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, and employees who take advantage of the free education have no obligation to stay with the company. The arrangement with Arizona State University provides the opportunity to any of the 135,000 people employed in the United States who work a minimum of 20 hours weekly and have the ability to gain admission to the school. A barista with two years of college credit will receive full tuition paid and those with less credits will still have part of their college paid for — although for many it will end up free with financial aid.

While many employers offer tuition reimbursement to its employees, it’s usually with strings attached. Typically new employees are exempt or the employees are required to stay with the company for a specified number of years. Starbucks is giving this opportunity to all of its employees from the day they start with the company. They can study anything they would like and leave Starbucks at any time — and of course many will leave knowing they can obtain higher-paying jobs.

Starbucks has offered its employees things that many food and drinks chains do not, such as health insurance for even those who work part-time and giving employees stock options. These perks may contribute to the company’s great success. While the number of employees who will take advantage of the program are unknown, the company states that employee surveys show that many of its employees have stated that they want to earn a degree.

What Starbucks is doing for their employees will change their lives and our country. Bravo to Howard Schultz for giving thousands of people the opportunity to graduate college debt-free and making the world a better place.

Bill Gates gave a $40M grant to Pittsburgh Public Schools.

It’s no secret that Bill Gates’ efforts to improve public education are focused on teacher evaluations. Gates’ gave a $40 million grant to Pittsburgh Public Schools for a project that centers on evaluation systems and performance ranges for teachers. Four percent of the teachers received an unsatisfactory rating in the past year’s evaluation. These teachers will now be on a support plan aimed to promote growth and improvement. Upon receiving a second unsatisfactory grade, the teachers may be fired, although the goal is to not allow teachers to receive a second unsatisfactory rating.

I am pleased to see that an agreement on the evaluation system in Pittsburgh has been made and agreed upon. Bill Gates’ efforts are proving worth it based on other places he has made donations — and hopefully this grant will take the same course.

I know that I didn’t discuss a few members of the club, but it wasn’t a slight. There are only so many hours in a day. So tell me, who did I miss?

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