Rogers said she joined the administration because she was inspired by its goals of helping kids graduate from high school and finish college.

The administration has waived ethics rules to allow Rogers and Shelton to deal more freely with the foundation, but Rogers said she talks infrequently with her former colleagues.

Bill Gates said his foundation is not the government’s partner in the new Race to the Top grant program.

“It’s no secret the U.S. education system is failing,” Gates said. “We’re doing all kinds of experiments that are different. The Race to the Top is going to do many different ones. There’s no group-think.”

Gates stepped away last year from his daily role at Microsoft, the software company he co-founded, to focus on the work of his foundation.

Vicki Phillips, the Gates Foundation’s director of education, said it originally offered help to states and school districts that it was working with and that are in agreement with many of the foundation’s goals. She said the foundation shares Obama’s priorities and sees itself as part of a larger reform effort.

The foundation’s rising profile comes as the recession has gutted state and local budgets, which spend more money on education–roughly 35 percent–than anything else. Many states and districts can’t keep all their teachers on the payroll, let alone spend money on a high-stakes application for federal money that includes some 44 pages of rules.

In Minnesota, more than a dozen education department staffers are working with consultants from the McKinsey & Co. global consulting firm to prepare the state’s application, using about $250,000 in Gates Foundation money, spokesman Bill Walsh said.

When the foundation offered to help states apply for the grant money, it initially offered the $250,000 to only 15 states.

Officials in other states complained when they learned of the plan. The governors and chief school officers groups pressed the foundation to expand its offer, and it has now agreed to help any state that meets eight criteria, including a commitment to the common standards effort and the ability to link student data to teachers.

The foundation also is helping some districts that are eligible for a share of the money if they are working in partnership with nonprofit organizations, including the Gates Foundation.

Not all the states are willing to discuss the help from Gates or their applications for the federal grants. In more than half a dozen states, education officials did not return phone calls from AP seeking interviews about the applications.

Links:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Race to the Top


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