Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dave Welch, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who’s behind Vergara

A nice profile of Dave Welch, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who's behind the case – and who has poured more than $2 million of his own money into this case (it's the most highly leveraged philanthropy I've ever seen):

Dave Welch isn't a teacher, politician or lawyer, but he was the driving force behind a landmark court ruling Tuesday that is poised to overhaul public education in California and across the nation.

How did the 53-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur do it? Some would say it's a passion for kids' education and a winning argument that California's policies guiding teacher tenure are broken. Others would say, simply, it's his money.

Dave Welch, right, Students Matter founder, speaks at news conference about the Vergara c. California Decision. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

…"I've been passionate about education for my whole life, and I've been involved in trying to improve education for my whole life," Welch said in an interview with this newspaper. "The first thing you have to do to deliver education to children in need is offer good, effective, and hopefully highly effective, teachers."

…But for Welch, Tuesday's court ruling overturned teacher policies he genuinely believes harm kids and affirmed the mission he undertook years ago to be an advocate for children when he felt the state, and schools, had failed them.

"The state has a responsibility of delivering an education for the betterment of the child," Welch said. "The state needs to prioritize how to achieve that. If they need to pay more money to obtain and keep good teachers, then that's what they need to do. But the state needs to understand that their responsibility is to teach children, and teach all of them."

A Maryland native, Welch is the product of public education, and went on to attend the University of Delaware and Cornell University. His three children, now college- and high school-aged, went to public and private schools.

…Welch has spent countless hours researching education policies and pouring millions into education causes, including donations to public and private schools in Menlo Park from a grant-making foundation he and his wife, Heidi, set up. His reform efforts kicked into high gear in 2011, when he formed Students Matter to sue the state and kick off a national campaign to reform tenure rules and begin flushing out ineffective teachers.

"I've seen him in his spare time, and I don't know how he has any, because he works so much. He's out there trying to change the world," said Mark Showalter, senior director of marketing at Infinera, where he has worked with Welch for three years. "Someone who could otherwise just be sitting on the sidelines and sending his kids to private school is getting involved and fighting the fight."

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