In Bloomberg's New Education Push, a High-Stakes Test of His Big Philanthropy
Michael Bloomberg recently pledged $375 million over the next five years to improve education in the United States. He laid out his plans during a speech he made at the New York Times Higher Ed Leaders forum. The strategies he outlined sound a lot like a greatest hits list from his tenure as New York City’s mayor.
These days, Bloomberg may be best known for his philanthropy on climate change and global health, along with his push for gun safety. But a hallmark of his three mayoral terms were his often controversial efforts to improve New York City's vast public school system. Now, a half-decade after leaving City Hall, Bloomberg is moving to put education front and center in his philanthropy, after years of smaller-scale work by his foundation in this space. "Education has always been a passion for me," he said in his recent remarks.
This is a risky move in some ways. While the $375 million commitment is a hefty sum, there are a lot of deep-pocketed funders working on education and historically, a ton of money has poured into the space with only modest results. Will Bloomberg's big commitment be any different?
As we've often written, Bloomberg has been a highly effective philanthropist because he's focused on large, solvable problems—like curbing deaths from smoking and traffic accidents in developing countries, or shuttering coal-fired power plants. We've joked that Bloomberg is the "Spock" of philanthropy because he tends to avoid sexy issues and instead follows the data, doubling down on results-driven work in less glamorous areas. Taking on education, a legendary graveyard for ambitious donors, might seem like a departure from that approach...