We know a few things about the Sackler family. Their family fortune is vast, about $14 billion. Their fortune was derived primarily from the sale of highly addictive opioids. More than 200,000 people have died due to opioid addiction. The Sackler nameis emblazoned on museums, libraries, and universities. Curiously, Jonathan Sackler has been a major finder of charter schools in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and other states. He has been a major founder of the no-excuses chain called Achievement First.

This is the first article I have seen that tries to track the Sackler ties to the charter industry.  

“An examination of 990 donor tax forms draws a wider picture of how Sackler largely came to underwrite many pro-charter entities over several years.

“Sackler made donations to charter schools and charter groups dating back to at least 2003, including a $50,000 unrestricted gift specifically to New Haven charter school Amistad Academy, which received $365,000 from the foundation in 2004 and $20,000 in 2005. The foundation also donated to the Arizona-based Alliance for School Choice in 2004 and 2008, and donated $250,000 to pro-charter organization ConnCAN in 2004 before its official launch, for which he is listed as an interlocking directorate.

“According to forms filed by the Bouncer Foundation, which is Sackler’s foundation, Impact for Education, a New Haven-based “philanthropic advisory practice,” received nearly $100,000 from the foundation for offering “philanthropic advice” in 2013.

“The year “2013 was the heyday for charters and charter expansion,” said Wendy Lecker, a senior attorney at the Education Law Center and a contributing columnist to Hearst Connecticut Media.

“Two years prior, New Haven-based Amistad Academy charter school co-founder Stefan Pryor was named commissioner of the state Department of Education. Also, around that time, then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy publicly stood with charter school advocates, Lecker said.

“(Sackler’s) fingerprints are all over the charter movement, particularly in our neck of the woods, and that’s another stain on the charter movement,” Lecker said. “The most vulnerable are in their schools, and for the charter industry to take this money when they’re claiming to help these kids is pretty questionable.”

“The foundation’s yearly reimbursement for Impact for Education’s annual philanthropic advice increased to $130,454 in 2014 and, after a payment of $90,000 in 2015, was reported to be $470,000 in 2016 and $262,500 in 2017, the most recent year available on searchable public databases.

“Impact for Education engages forward-thinking philanthropists to catalyze systemic change in public education,” the practice says on its website.

“Impact for Education’s president and founder, Alex Johnston, also co-founded the pro-charter advocacy group Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, or ConnCAN, with Sackler in 2005. Johnston served as executive director, while Sackler sat as chairman of the board.

“According to his biography on Impact for Education’s website, Johnston also is a board member of FaithACTS for Education in Bridgeport, a registered nonprofit coalition of religious education advocates that received $700,000 from the Bouncer Foundation between 2015 and 2017. The group’s founder, the Rev. William McCullough, told the Connecticut Post that the group believes in school choice.

“Neither Johnston, a former member of the New Haven Board of Education, nor Impact for Education returned a request for comment.

“In 2009, the Bouncer Foundation had begun making gifts to Yale University that would ultimately culminate in a $3 million endowment for the Richard Sackler and Jonathan Sackler Professorship, but other donations effectively ceased until 2011, when the foundation gave $100,000 to Students for Education Reform and $5,000 to the conservative Alliance for School Choice. After an austere 2012, the foundation donated to eight groups affiliated with charter schools, including ConnCAN and its subsequently founded national counterpart 50CAN, Students for Education Reform, New Haven’s Booker T. Washington Academy, the Northeast Charter Schools Network. In 2013, Achievement First, the charter network co-founded by Dacia Toll, and which operates Amistad Academy, was named a recipient of a donation….

“In 2013, Achievement First, which runs 35 other schools in three states, received $151,571 from the Bouncer Foundation. The contribution was increased to $250,000 in 2014 and 2015 and was more than doubled in 2016, when the network received $600,000 from the foundation. By 2017, the foundation’s gift to Achievement First was $350,000.

“For 2013, 990 forms show Achievement First reported $29,253,402 in contributions and $40,396,539 in revenue, so contributions were about 72.4 percent of revenue. In the most recent year for which data is available, Achievement First reported for 2017 about $22 million in contributions and grants, of $46 million in revenue.

“For the entirety of the Bouncer Foundation donations, Sackler sat on Achievement First’s Board of Directors.”

Wendy Lecker gave a good explanation of the appeal of charter schools to the Uber-rich like Sackler.

“The Education Law Center’s Lecker said wealthy donors receive tax incentives for donating to charter schools, so a number of wealthy charter donors are seeking financial advantages. However, she believes there’s also a basis in undermining public services.

“The whole privatizing of public education is an effort of the uber-wealthy to tamp down the expectations of what people should want in the public sphere,” she said. “A smaller public sphere in terms of public education and local democracy means people have less of an expectation of what they can get from the public.”

“Lecker said she believes a number of philanthropists believe they are doing a good thing, but the fact that some, like Sackler, “are so aggressively involved, and have been since the beginning, means they have to know what goes on in charter schools and what impact they have on funding for public schools.”

“Advocates for district schools such as Joyner and Lecker see charter schools as a movement to undermine teacher unions and hand governmental control of education to charter management companies and moneyed interests.”