50CAN is a corporate reform organization that originated in Connecticut as ConnCAN. It was led by the billionaire Jonathan Sackler. Sackler owns Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which created the drug OxyContin, which is a highly addictive painkiller. The drug financing the expansion of charter schools made the Sackler family very wealthy (at last count, a net worth of $14 billion), but it is also implicated in the nation’s opioid crisis.

ConnCAN went national as 50CAN. (I learned from reading Elizabeth Young Bruelh’s book “Childism” that CAN is an acronym in the psychiatric literature that stands for “child abuse and neglect.”

Laura Chapman did some research and this is what she learned:

“According to Media Matters.org, 50CAN stands for the 50 State Campaign for Achievement Now. 50CAN is a network of state-level organizations pushing for pro-voucher and free-market education policies across the country. It has affiliates in Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, and “fellowships “in California, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, and Wisconsin.

“The 2016 policy goals focused on passing state legislation in affiliate states to spur the rapid expansion of charter schools and to reduce state oversight of these schools.

“50CAN “partners” with many conservative and rightwing organizations that want to control school policy. Among these partners are the Commonwealth Foundation (a member of the State Policy Network) which, according to Politico includes these “associate members”: ALEC, David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity Foundation, FreedomWorks, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute and The Heritage Foundation. Add the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (see Wikipedia and board of directors); and Policy Innovators in Education Network (PIE) active in 34 states promoting market-based education.

“Each state in 50CAN has strategic partners and interlocking directorates among members. This inbreeding is planned and extensive. It is masked by the ambiguous language of “strategic partnerships” for policies and for advocacy, a relationship of “affiliate status,” and for “campaigns” (lobbying initiatives) with right wing organizations and projects. 50CAN state affiliates know how to find and to co-opt groups that should be defending public education. Go to jonathanpelto,com for a chilling report from early this year about the activities of ConnCAN.

“Here is another example. PIE (Policy Innovators in Education Network) is a sprawling network of deep-pocket and dark money power-brokers promoting market-based education in 34 states and Washington, DC. Members can be found here: http://pie-network.org/pie-network-members/

“Who finances PIE? Foundations set up by billionaires who have no respect for public education and othe institutions with democratic governance. PIE is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, New Venture Fund, and McKnight Foundation.

“In March, 50CAN and Michelle Rhee”s StudentsFirst announced that they would merge and begin operating under the 50CAN name nationally, although state chapters of StudentsFirst will, for the most part, retain their “brands.”

“All of that is a a fraction of what’s going on, and with tax breaks for the “non-profits” who are working together for a “collective impact.”


My addendum: the PIE Network was launched by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.