Gates Retains its Presence in the National Charter School Movement

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's education funding agenda has always included charter schools, but as part of a much broader education funding agenda. This separates Gates from other prominent charter funders, such as the Walton Family Foundation, where charters are a central focus. In recent months, however, Gates' charter funding activities have been more focused, concentrating on growing charter schools in the funder's home state of Washington, which was slower to embrace the charter movement, having approved such schools only in 2012.

This recent emphasis on Washington state, however, does not mean the Gates Foundation has removed its support from the national charter school movement. The funder remains a key figure in supporting research, advocacy, and other activities related to charter schools. Witness its recent decision to award $3 million in grant support to the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools.

NAPCS, based in Washington, D.C., is a national advocate for charter schools. It works with state charter associations, lobbies to lift state caps on the number of charter schools allowed, disseminates information on successful charter school practices with the goal of replicating them more widely, and advocates closing funding gaps between charters and traditional public schools. The $3 million from Gates will provide general operating support to NAPCS.

A smaller Gates grant underscores the funder's interest in fostering cooperation between charters and traditional public school systems. Gates awarded $115,000 to New Schools for Chicago to advance collaboration between the city's public schools and the growing number of charters there. New Schools for Chicago is one of the city's leading investors and advocates for charter schools.