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Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education Conversation Series, VI


Wednesday, Feb. 12 2014

Ever since their emergence in the early twentieth century, major philanthropic foundations have played a funding role in American education. Originally, most contributions were limited and made to private and post-secondary institutions. Over the last two decades, however, foundations began to focus on K-12 public education at the same time as they substantially increased their investments. From Bill Gates to the Walton Family, wealthy individuals and their foundations have increasingly used their contributions strategically to leverage controversial education reforms, from the establishment of accountability regimes focused on standardized exams and the incorporation of value-added measures in teacher evaluations to the promotion of charter schools and vouchers. To what extent are foundations providing essential funds and resources to public education, which would be the poorer without them? How much voice should a private institution, however generous, have in the shaping of public policy in the field of education? Are foundations usurping the role of democratic decision-making institutions and processes in the formulation of education policy? Are foundations and democratic education friends or foes?


Benjamin R. Barber

Senior Research Scholar, Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, City University of New York

Joanne Barkan

writer; member, editorial board, Dissent magazine.

Frederick M. Hess

Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies


Richard D. Kahlenberg

Senior Fellow, Century Foundation; Albert Shanker Institute Board Member

Watch the video HERE.



Sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers, this conversation series is designed to engender lively and informative discussions on important educational issues. We deliberately invite speakers with diverse perspectives, including views other than those of the AFT and the Albert Shanker Institute. What is important is that these participants are committed to genuine engagement with each other.