Reed Hastings, the billionaire founder of Netflix, is quietly building a mysterious 2,100-acre luxury retreat ranch nestled in the elk-filled foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Hastings has been one of the country’s biggest donors to the education reform movement that’s trying to reshape America’s struggling school system. And now public records reveal that Hastings is personally financing a new foundation that will operate this training ground for American public school teachers, a passion project shrouded in secrecy that will expand the billionaire’s political influence.
Hastings is one of many Silicon Valley billionaires who have deployed their fortunes in the education reform movement, which calls for a greater focus on testing, tougher accountability for teachers, and the expansion of alternative schools like charters to close America’s achievement gaps and better train its future workforce. Those tech leaders, though, have had uncertain results, with the very biggest of them — Microsoft founder Bill Gates — having admitted earlier this year that he was “not yet seeing the kind of bottom-line impact we expected.” Opponents, including teachers’ unions, charge that these reformersare blaming educators for factors beyond their control, such as poverty.
The new training center, called the Retreat Land at Lone Rock, seems to be a priority for the Netflix CEO, at least based on Hastings’s level of personal involvement: He and his wife have been visiting the area since at least 2017, when they went so far as to request a face-to-face meeting with a local fire chief at his Colorado firehouse to try and smooth over any looming permitting concerns.
Hastings, whose involvement hasn’t previously been reported, declined to comment on his plans through a spokesperson.
But public records filed with the government of Park County, Colorado, and reviewed by Recode offer a glimpse at the ambitious plans for the center, which local officials expect to open as early as March 2021.
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