Silicon Money in Education

By: Tonya Mead, CFE, PI, MBA, MA Educational Psychology

Today, NY Times continues its piece on Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools.

The dangers of super-sized donor influence in education have often been overlooked by federal and state regulators as it is believed that the benefits to society seem to outweigh the costs. However, Ms. Tompkins-Stange when interviewed for the NY Times article says that, “they have the power to change policy, but no corresponding check on that power. It does subvert the democratic process.” [para 5].

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In my book, I reference Pfeffer who asserted that there are 3 conditions that exacerbate the confluence of power and influence on an already weak network of public schools and universities:

  1. “the time lag between an organizational decision and the visible consequences of the decision,
  2. the difficulty in assigning individual blame for an organizational decision gone awry, and
  3. the collective unwillingness to analyze reasons for past failures.” [page 39].

So while Silicon Valley money invested in education is not bad in and of itself; parents, educators and concerned citizens should take the necessary steps to ensure through accountability,  that the proper checks and balances are in place to thwart fraud, waste, abuse and self dealing.


J. Pfeffer,  Managing with Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1992.

Tonya J. Mead, CFE, PI, MBA, MA, Certified K-12 Administrator and School Psychologist is author of Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer and president of Shared Knowledge, LLC