Teachers Union Cites Common Core in Decision to Cut Gates Funding

The American Federation of Teachers, which has won millions of dollars in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will no longer accept foundation money for its Innovation Fund. Union members have expressed concern about the poor implementation in many states of the Common Core State Standards, one of the initiatives in which the fund invests.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said at the recent SXSWedu conference in Austin that she would ask her executive council to approve a five-cent raise in dues to make up for the money that the nation's second largest teachers union would have received from the Gates foundation for its Innovation Fund. The fund has invested not only in the Common Core standards but in expanding learning time, charter schools and other projects.

The Gates Foundation has awarded more than $5 million to the AFT Educational Foundation in the last five years, including a 36-month $4.4 million grant in June 2012 to support the Innovation Fund, teacher development and the Common Core State Standards, according to the Gates foundation Web site. The Gates Foundation also has awarded the AFT grant money for other purposes outside the Innovation Fund, and Weingarten said the AFT would still accept Gates money for other purposes.

Weingarten said at the conference that she had decided to stop taking Gates money for the Innovation Fund after talking with many union members, who have been unsettled by the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which have been heavily supported by the Gates Foundation and Bill Gates for years.

Weingarten has supported the standards but called the implementation in recent years "far worse" than the rollout of the Obama administration's problem-plagued health insurance Web site in the fall, and has called for a rethinking of the standards for the youngest students. Teachers have complained that they have not had enough time to learn the standards and create new materials to teach students, and some states have already given high-stakes standardized tests said to be aligned with the new standards.

Politico first reported on this here.

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