Washington State

Our goal
To create opportunities for all children in Washington State—regardless of their race, ethnicity, income, or gender—to reach their full potential.
A family newly housed at Croft Place Townhomes, a low-income housing complex in West Seattle.
Rainier Beach High School conducts their 2014 graduation ceremony at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington. ©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Mike Kane

At a glance

  • Our vision is for all children in Washington to be able to thrive across their educational experience and gain a strong foundation of career readiness.
  • We work to dismantle structural barriers that impede student progress—from early learning through postsecondary access and education.
  • We seek new ways to make math more accessible to young learners, including through high-quality math curricula that serve all student learning styles.
  • We support efforts ensure full funding for public education in our state, better data to understand educational outcomes, high-quality public charter school options, and improved financial aid programs for students.
  • We have made targeted investments in training and resources to support early childhood providers.
Our strategy

Our strategy

We believe that all students in Washington State deserve an education that enables them to achieve their full potential and feel empowered, safe, and supported—regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, or family income. To that end, we invest in organizations in our home state that give kids a strong early start and access to great schools and vibrant communities that support the whole child. Education networks, knowledge exchange, and data are at the heart of our approach to collaborating with community partners, educators, and families as we work to strengthen schools from pre-K through postsecondary education.

Our state has long benefited from the work of innovators who serve as a source of inspiration and contribute to economic mobility and help shape our foundation’s culture and local initiatives. Each year, our foundation grants nearly US$300 million to Washington State organizations. Our primary focus is to strengthen education so all children in our state can go on to complete college, earn a family wage, and give back to their community in meaningful ways.

We listen to educators, schools, colleges, and leaders who understand the challenges and strengths of our state’s education system, and we work with them to design solutions that are uniquely suited to local realities. Our equity-driven approach focuses resources where they are most needed—on efforts to support students who are Black, Latino, or from families experiencing poverty. We work with organizations to create tailored plans that are driven by data, evidence, and community-led solutions that support equity and economic mobility for all.

 Young students at White Center Heights Elementary School in Seattle, WA.
Young students at White Center Heights Elementary School in Seattle, WA. ©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Michael Hanson

Our holistic approach translates into investments that are student-centered and lead to more equitable outcomes. We are proud to support the next generation of community leaders and decision-makers. You can learn about all our efforts in Washington State at local.gatesfoundation.org.

Visit our Washington State website

For more details on our work to support students and families across Washington State, please visit our program website.

Areas of focus

Areas of focus

Our vision is for all children in Washington to be able to thrive across their educational experience and gain a strong foundation of career readiness. This has informed our areas of focus. In 2022, we are taking some time to reevaluate how best to support our vision in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our communities and our students. We expect to share more details later this year.

In the education sector, sharing ideas, information, and solutions across networks can benefit schools and school districts. The Road Map Project in South King County is one example of the power of working together in this way. We support collaboration among hundreds of school districts, colleges, educators, families, and organizations—all securely sharing data on student progress and supporting the region’s children on their journey from pre-K to college.

One priority for us has been dismantling structural barriers that impede student progress from early learning through postsecondary access and education. We support networks of school districts and other educational partners who are working to address these barriers, whether by providing schools with technical support to help them pivot during the pandemic to helping students with scholarship applications to keep them on a path to a degree or credential.

Math proficiency is fundamental to success at every stage in life—from discovering patterns at a young age to developing competencies for higher education, managing household budgets, and exploring work in the tech sector. We seek new ways to make math more accessible to young learners, and we support educators so they can provide high-quality, challenging, research-based math curricula that embrace the many different approaches to learning mathematical concepts.

One recent focus has been on supporting students in South King County from preschool through 5th grade with pilot projects that encourage more confident math instruction and promote positive social-emotional skills, while considering the cultural context of each school and tapping into kids’ natural enjoyment of and interest in the subject. Our partners and grantees share our belief that working with different learning styles and building on children’s unique strengths and experiences will lead to more effective math education.

Smart statewide policies enable more supportive and equitable learning environments from pre-K through college. We support and participate in efforts in our state to ensure full funding for public education, better data to understand educational outcomes, high-quality public charter school options, and improved financial aid programs for students.

Our investments in this area include support for the College Promise Coalition, whose members are calling for increased higher education access and opportunity for Washington students, and the Washington State Charter Schools Association, a nonprofit that advocates for high-quality, student-centered charter schools that are informed by community strengths and needs.

High-quality pre-K is one of the best ways to ensure that children have positive outcomes, from educational attainment to health and employment. Some of our earliest investments in Washington State focused on supporting our youngest learners. By building language skills, emphasizing social and emotional learning, and fostering a sense of curiosity, pre-K programs can help children develop into successful students and creative, entrepreneurial members of society.

We have made targeted investments to give Washington’s child care providers—the unsung heroes of the teaching profession—training and resources to support each child’s learning and development. We have also provided grants to programs that connect families to the early learning and child care programs that best meet their needs. Our focus on educational equity in early childhood enhances children’s readiness to learn and thrive as they enter the K-12 education system and journey through life.

Why focus on Washington State?

Why focus on Washington State?

We have a deep commitment to improving the lives of students and families in Washington State, where the Gates family has lived for generations.

Our identity as Washingtonians is built on innovation and opportunity. We value our vibrant neighborhoods and natural beauty, we care about our state, and we care about each other. But structural racism and systemic barriers in our education and economic systems prevent too many of our students from reaching their full potential, and these same barriers prevent all of us from living up to our ideals.

These issues not only affect our children right now, but they have consequences for the future of our economy and our quality of life. The industries that drive Washington’s economy—technology, science, health, and international trade—require a well-educated workforce. Our democracy requires that we invest in well-educated and engaged youth who can become the next generation of leaders.

Our futures are more interconnected than ever. If we want a strong economy, a strong democracy, and vibrant, healthy communities, we must provide all our kids—especially those who have been historically marginalized or who are facing barriers of racism and poverty—with better, more equitable educational opportunities.

Preschool children participate in a class at the Hilltop Elementary School. Burien, WA on December 10, 2015.
Preschool children participate in a class at the Hilltop Elementary School. Burien, WA. ©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Evan McGlinn
Strategy leadership

Strategy leadership

Angela Jones
Angela Jones
Director, Washington State
Angela Jones leads the foundation’s efforts to create sustainable and positive impact for students, families, and communities in Washington State.
Kathleen Walsh
Kathleen Walsh
Deputy Director, Strategy, Planning & Management
Kathleen Walsh oversees the strategic planning, operations, and measurement work for the Washington State, Economic Mobility and Opportunity, and U.S. Charters strategies.
Related programs

Related programs

Economic Mobility and Opportunity
Economic Mobility and Opportunity

The Economic Mobility and Opportunity team works to help the U.S. economic system better meet the needs of those experiencing poverty and significantly increase their opportunities to achieve economic success.

Pathways

The Pathways team supports efforts to ensure that Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty can access at every stage the skills development, support, and relationships necessary to thrive in education and the workforce.

Postsecondary Success

The Postsecondary Success team supports colleges and universities in making institutional reforms that eliminate race, ethnicity, and income as predictors of educational success.