In the past two decades, American philanthropic foundations have played increasingly powerful roles in setting agendas, championing and financing public education reforms. Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence (Harvard Education Press, 2016) provides a rare behind-the-scenes view of decision making inside four of the most influential U.S. education philanthropies: the Ford Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Over a period of several years, author Megan Tompkins-Stange gained the trust of key players within and outside observers of these four organizations, and through a series of confidential interviews, she explored the values, ideas, and beliefs that inform these foundations’ strategies and practices. The picture that emerges reveals important differences in the strategies and values of the more established foundations vis-à-vis the newer, more activist foundations—differences that have a significant impact on education policy and practice, and have important implications for democratic decision making.
Megan Tompkins-Stange is Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School, and currently Visiting Professor at La Chair Philanthropie, ESSEC Business School. She is an expert on education policy and philanthropy, and her research examines how elite private foundations have shaped public education policy and reform in the U.S. Her first book, Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence, was published by Harvard Education Press in 2016.
Photo by the Ford School