Having poured millions of dollars into efforts to promote Common Core, billionaire business magnate Bill Gates visited the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. to deliver a robust defense of the controversial education standards to a largely conservative audience.
AEI education research fellow Michael McShane asked Gates — who has spent millions backing national education standards through his personal non-profit, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — why Common Core has become his paramount public policy reform.
“Your foundation has been known for supporting the Common Core curriculum standards that have become increasingly controversial… and the question that I have is, why?” asked McShane.
Gates responded that he believed the standards would improve education by breaking up the monopoly that each state has over its own education system.
“Scale is good for free market competition,” said Gates. “Individual state regulatory capture is not good for competition.”
The Common Core standards were developed by the National Governor’s Association, though they have become synonymous with the goals of President Obama’s Department of Education. The standards set curriculum benchmarks, and assume an accompanying regimen of high-stakes standardized testing. They are currently being implemented in most states, though both teachers unions and grassroots conservative activists are fighting them fiercely all over the country. (RELATED: Powerful NY teachers union renounces support for Common Core)
Gates expressed frustration that Common Core was being opposed by typically pro-market people. (RELATED: Here is the conservative defense of Common Core)
“And so this thing, in terms of driving innovation, you’d think that sort of pro-capitalistic market-driven people would be in favor of it, but, you know, somehow, it’s gotten to be controversial,” he said.
But many conservative opponents of the Common Core disagree with Gates. Joy Pullman, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News, wrote that from a free market perspective, a national monopoly on education was hardly preferable to a statewide monopoly.
“So state regulatory capture is bad…and the answer is national regulatory capture? Logic, please!” she wrote in a comment. (RELATED: EPIC FAIL: Parents reveal insane Common Core worksheets)
McShane told The Daily Caller that he appreciated Gates’s argument, but was surprised that Gates would realistically expect Common Core to be such a panacea, give the enormity of the problem: America’s failing education system.
“It would seem to me that if the ship seems so unlikely to right, it would be wiser to spend time, resources, and energy building schools or starting new teacher preparation programs in an attempt to little by little improve the situation, not take a bite at the whole apple,” McShane told TheDC.
Gates has poured roughly $75 million into lobbying efforts on behalf of Common Core.