Gates Foundation Takes on Education

Melinda Gates, a philanthropist and the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, is kicking off a new campaign called Ed '08, which is designed to get presidential candidates to pay more attention to education.

With $3 billion to give away every year through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she has decided to give that money -- at least in the United States -- to education.

"A million kids drop out of high school every year. It's a crisis on our hands and often when we're working with our partners in the schools they say why aren't Americans demanding that we do a better job in high schools?" Gates told "Good Morning America."

In the developing world, the foundation has tackled the health-care crisis, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

In this country, the focus has been improving public schools. So far, the foundation has spent $1 billion on the cause and is now launching a $60 million public awareness campaign that aims to persuade the '08 crop of White House candidates to take on the issue.

Gates said she hoped to be a thorn in the side of the presidential candidates.

"We hope [that in] all those town hall meetings there are people in there raising hands saying, 'What are you going to do about education?'" Gates said. "We need an inspiring leader in this country that says education is important."

"If you look at the curriculum kids get taught in the U.S. education system, you'd be appalled," Gates said. "Kids who basically learn to read the backs of cans in a grocery store. That's not teaching kids math."

Her passion for giving back has been with her since she was a girl, but was reinforced by a note her mother-in-law gave her before her wedding that said, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected."

It's a lesson Gates is now passing on to her children.

"Often we'll talk to them about going on a trip, about simple things like blankets, that you'll go out and see kids who don't have blankets in their house," she said.

Bill and Melinda Gates talk to their children about the work they're doing, and they take them on trips to Third World countries.

"We're starting to take them to the developing world more, to see at a level that's age appropriate what's going on," she said. "They travel some with us so they have a basis for knowing why I'm out. At the same time, if a trip goes on too long, I'll hear, 'Why aren't you here to do homework?' and that's probably natural."