Archives for category: ConnCAN

The New York Times reports that the Sackler family, one of the nation’s wealthiest families, busily transferred assets to themselves as the opioid crisis worsened

The Sacklers derived most of their billions from Purdue Pharma, prominent manufacturer and marketer of Oxycontin.

Jonathan Sackler is a major supporter of charter schools. He underwrote charter schools in Connecticut, created ConnCAN, then 50CAN, and the many state affiliates of that group. At this very moment, GeorgiaCAN is pushing charters on the receptive Atlanta school board (whose president is ex-TFA).

The Times reports:

As scrutiny of Purdue Pharma’s role in the opioid epidemic intensified during the past dozen years, its owners, members of the Sackler family, withdrew more than $10 billion from the company, distributing it among trusts and overseas holding companies, according to a new audit commissioned by Purdue.

The amount is more than eight times what the family took out of the company in the 13 years after OxyContin, its signature product, was approved in 1995. The audit is likely to renew questions about how much the Sacklers should pay to resolve more than 2,800 lawsuits that seek to hold Purdue accountable for the opioid crisis.

The family has offered to contribute at least $3 billion in cash as part of a settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments against Purdue. But 24 states, led by Massachusetts and New York, have refused to sign onto the agreement, arguing that the Sacklers should pay more.

The new report, a 350-page forensic accounting prepared by Alix Partners, a consulting firm that Purdue has hired to help guide the company through Chapter 11 restructuring, was filed in bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y., Monday evening.

Sarah Darer Littman wrote about Jonathan Sackler’s long involvement in the charter school movement.

She says he brought his knowledge of marketing opioids to the charter school industry.

He is on the Board of Directors of the Achievement First charter school network. Until recently, Sackler served on the board of the New Schools Venture Fund, which invests in charter schools and advocates for their expansion. He was also on the board of the pro-charter advocacy group Students for Education Reform.

Through his personal charity, the Bouncer Foundation, Sackler donates to the abovementioned organizations, and an ecosystem of other charter school promoting entities, such as Families for Excellent Schools ($1,083,333 in 2014, $300,000 in 2015according to the Foundation’s Form 990s) Northeast Charter School Network ($150,000 per year in 2013, 2014 and 2015) and $275,000 to Education Reform Now (2015) and $200,000 (2015) to the Partnership for Educational Justice, the group founded by Campbell Brown which uses “impact litigation” to go after teacher tenure laws. Earlier this year, the Partnership for Educational Justice joined 50CAN, which Sackler also funds ($300,000 in 2014 and 2015), giving him a leadership role in the controversial—and so far failing cause—of weakening worker protections for teachers via the courts.

Just as Arthur Sackler founded the weekly Medical Tribune, to promote Purdue products to the medical professional who would prescribe them, Jon Sackler helps to fund, the “nonpartisan” education news website founded by Campbell Brown. The site, which received startup funding from Betsy DeVos, decries the fact that “the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin,” yet is uniformly upbeat about charter schools while remarkably devoid of anything positive to say about district schools or teachers unions.

Charter chains are known for their lavish rallies, paid organizers, and “swag.”

These are techniques learned from the Sacklers and Purdue, writes Littman.

The description of “lavish swag” will sound familiar to anyone who has witnessed one of the no-expenses-spared charter school rallies that are a specialty of Sackler-funded organizations like Families for Excellent schools. Then there is the dizzying array of astroturf front groups all created for the purpose of demanding more charter schools. Just in Connecticut, we’ve had the Coalition for Every Child, A Better Connecticut, Fight for Fairness CT, Excel Bridgeport, and the Real Reform Now Network. All of these groups ostensibly claim to be fighting for better public schools for all children. In reality, they have been lobbying to promote charter schools, often running afoul of ethics laws in the process.

Take Families for Excellent Schools, a “grassroots” group that claims to be about parent engagement, yet was founded by major Wall Street players. In Connecticut, the group failed to register its Coalition for Every Child as a lobbying entity and report a multimillion-dollar ad buy expenditure and the costs of a rally in New Haven. 

In Massachusetts, Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy (FESA) recently had to cough up more than $425,000 to the Massachusetts general fund as part of a legal settlement with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the largest civil forfeiture in the agency’s 44-year history. Massachusetts officials concluded that FESA violated the campaign finance law by receiving contributions from individuals and then contributing those funds to the Great Schools Massachusetts Ballot Question Committee, which sought to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the money. As part of the settlement, the group was ordered to reveal the names of its secret donors. Jonathan Sackler was one of them.

In addition, Purdue heiress Madeleine Sackler directed the pro-charter film “The Lottery” about Eva Moskowitz and her Success Academy charter chain.

The Sacklers have used their vast wealth, derived from the opioid crisis, to burnish their family reputation and to destroy public schools.

As the Times reports, they are doing their best to get their money out of the company before it is bankrupted by lawsuits.




The Sackler family owns Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures and markets (ed) OxyContin, a highly addictive opioid. More than 200,000 people have died of opioid addiction.

The Sackler family is listed by Forbes as one of the richest families in America with a net worth of $14 billion.

The Sackler name is engraved on museums, libraries, and universities. Some of those institutions have removed the Sackler name or said they do not welcome future donations.

The Sacklers are major supporters of charter schools. Jonathan Sackler funded ConnCAN  and 50CAN. His daughter Madeline made a movie glorifying Eva Moskowitz’s charter chain, called “The Lottery.”


WASHINGTON, May 21 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) led a bicameral group of lawmakers in introducing the Opioid Crisis Accountability and Results Act, as Vermont Attorney General T. J. Donovan announced a lawsuit today against former Purdue Pharma CEO Richard Sackler and seven family members who served on Purdue’s Board of Directors for deliberately misrepresenting the risks of the drug OxyContin.

The Opioid Crisis Accountability and Results Act, introduced with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Representatives Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), prohibits illegal marketing and distribution of opioids; creates criminal liability for top company executives; penalizes drug manufacturers who illegally advertise, market or distribute an opioid product; and requires drug makers to reimburse the country for the negative economic impact of their products.

The opioid epidemic is estimated to cost the United States over $78 billion per year. In 2016 alone, over 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses. From 1999 to 2016, the number of opioid overdose deaths more than tripled, and U.S. life expectancy as a whole fell for the third year in a row in 2017, due in part to the increase in opioid-related deaths.

“We know that pharmaceutical companies lied about the addictive impacts of opioids they manufactured. They knew how dangerous these products were, but refused to tell doctors and patients. While some of these companies have made billions each year in profits, not one of them has been held fully accountable for its role in an epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year,” Sanders said. “At a time when local, state and federal governments are spending many billions of dollars a year dealing with the impact of the opioid epidemic, we must hold the pharmaceutical companies and executives that created the crisis accountable.”

“Communities across the country are being ripped apart by the opioid epidemic. Multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies and their executives reaped large profits for years while their questionable marketing and distribution practices precipitated a devastating public health crisis,” Bennet said. “It is far past time for Congress to ensure opioid manufacturers, distributors, and executives fund our response to the crisis they created. Our bill will support programs that combat the opioid crisis and ensure we hold companies and their executives accountable for any future misconduct.”

“When I visit the communities that have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic, I see the victims of unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies that have put profits over the patients they were intended to serve,” said Khanna. “This bill holds opioid manufacturers and their executives accountable for decades of dishonest sales practices and malicious drug distribution. Over the past 20 years, more than 400,000 people have died of opioid overdoses, and millions more have been stricken by addiction. Their loved ones deserve justice.”

“Opioid companies have lied, cheated, and profited from the addiction and death left in the wake of the crisis they helped create. The criminal nature of these companies’ actions have destroyed families as well as strained the criminal justice and public health systems,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “This bill would create tools to hold companies and executives accountable for preying on patients using deceptive marketing tactics, as they proliferated these highly-addictive and destructive drugs on our streets.”

Any company found in violation of the Opioid Crisis Accountability and Results Act would be fined 25 percent of the profits from their opioid products. Drug manufacturers who illegally advertise, market or distribute an opioid product would also be stripped of any remaining period of market exclusivity for that opioid product, and would lose half of the remaining exclusivity period on other opioid products they have on the market. The legislation would also fine any company found liable for contributing to the opioid epidemic $7.8 billion—10 percent of the annual cost of the opioid crisis.

Organizations endorsing the legislation include Public Citizen, CREDO, American Medical Student Association (AMSA), National Collaborative for Health Equity and Prescription Justice.

Sanders contact:
Bennet contact:
Khanna contact:
Gabbard contact: 


The Providence Journal published 20 articles about Governor Gina Raimondo and Sackler contributions to her campaign. It was only $12,500, nothing in the world of hedge fund managers, Raimondo’s former occupation. The publicity finally got to her, and she announced she was donating the money somewhere. 

Sackler owns Purdue Pharma, major manufacturer of OxyContin, the highly addictive opioid responsible for more than 200,000 deaths. There are more than 1,600 lawsuits against Purdue and the Sacklers, whose net worth exceeds $14 Billion.

Sackler is a major funder if charter schools and charter advocacy groups, such as Achievement First, ConnCAN and 50CAN.


Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers of killer drug OxyContin, is considering bankruptcy to cancel the 1,600 lawsuits against it.

More than 200,000 people have died because of opioid addiction.

Governor Raimondo of Rhode Island is not returning contributions from Jonathan Sackler, although other elected officials have done so.

The Sackler family is worth about $14 billion based on the success of their addictive drug. Jonathan Sackler is a major donor to charter schools. He founded ConnCAN and is a board member of 50CAN and other charter-promoting organizations.

I have often wondered whether their grand mansions are haunted by the ghosts of those killed by OxyContin.


A report on Monday by Reuters said that embattled OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma is considering bankruptcy to shield itself from more than 1,600 lawsuits, including by the State of Rhode Island and by multiple Rhode Island cities and towns.

“The potential move shows how Purdue and its wealthy owners, the Sackler family, are under pressure to respond to mounting litigation accusing the company of misleading doctors and patients about risks associated with prolonged use of its prescription opioids,” reported Reuters.

The Sacklers rank as the 19th richest family in the United States according to Business Insider.

Jonathan Sackler, who has been a board member of Purdue Pharma, and his wife Mary Corson, are significant donors to Governor Gina Raimondo. Raimondo, who has said in the past she supports the Rhode Island lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, has refused to donate or return the donations from the Sacklers.

In contrast, Lt Governor Dan McKee donated campaign donations from Sackler and Corson to Rhode Island agencies that treat substance abuse.


Politico reports that two groups advocating for privatization and against teacher tenure are merging.

The merger is presented in typical “reform” doublespeak as a “victory,” but to the naked eye it appears to be an admission of defeat, an admission that neither group has been successful.

50CAN began as ConnCAN, with billionaire funding (supplied largely by the infamous Sackler family, which gained billions by producing and marketing Oxycontin, which is at the center of a national opiod crisis). 50CAN is supposed to spread privately managed charters everywhere, but what it can’t do is cook the research, which shows that charters don’t perform better than public schools unless they cherrypick their students, and many underperform public schools. Their new partner, Campbell Brown’s PEJ, has brought law suits intended to destroy the rights of teachers, but none of its lawsuits has been successful; its lawsuit in Minnesota was thrown out without so much as a hearing. You might say it was laughed out of court, by the judge.

EXCLUSIVE: GROUPS TEAM UP TO MAKE BIGGER MARK: Two reform groups are teaming up to drive change in state education policy by using the courts. The nonprofit 50CAN is joining forces with the Partnership for Educational Justice, a nonprofit founded by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, which is known for lawsuits targeting state policies the group says allow ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom. The partnership will allow 50CAN to get involved in litigation for the first time. And it will allow the Partnership’s small staff to draw on 50CAN’s policy expertise to better determine where lawsuits might be successful.

– The Partnership for Educational Justice will retain its name and pro bono legal help, but 50CAN will serve as PEJ’s fiduciary board. Both organizations will continue their push against teacher tenure laws in three states – Minnesota, New Jersey and New York – and may look at litigation on other issues, like school funding. “50CAN has never done any impact litigation work, so we see an opportunity to provide the backend support for their work in a way that helps them go further,” said 50CAN CEO Marc Porter Magee. “I really think the next set of successes in education reform are going to come from these kinds of collaborations.” Ralia Polechronis, executive director of the Partnership for Educational Justice, said “the beauty of a partnership like this is that PEJ can take advantage of the policy expertise that 50CAN has at a very local level.”

– The Partnership for Educational Justice has yet to prevail in lawsuits aimed at ending teacher tenure policies in Minnesota, New Jersey or New York. And the organization suffered a setback Monday when the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a dismissal of its lawsuit, The Star Tribune reports. Porter Magee said the lawsuits aren’t intended to bring about quick change, but are “long-term commitments.”

As long as the money keeps coming in, the groups will survive. Results don’t matter.

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, 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:

“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.



Meryl Streep won the Golden Globes Lifetime Achievement Award last night. Her acceptance speech was powerful. (Please note that she emphasizes the fact that she went to the public schools of New Jersey.)


She said:


Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year, so I have to read.


Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.


But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.


Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.


They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.


But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.


O.K., this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.


One more thing: Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.


As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.



Politico reports today that most teachers of the year agree test-based evaluations are the most demoralizing federal policy for teachers. Yet ConnCAN, the corporate reform group, is urging Connecticut legislators to stick with this failed program.

Shame on ConnCAN! Count on them to advocate for policies opposed by teachers and parents. Whom do they represent? Their biggest funder is the Sackler family, which became billionaires selling the highly addictive OxyContin.

And by the way, now that 50CAN has merged with StudentsFirst, it is time to recall that in the psychiatric literature, CAN refers to “child abuse and neglect.”

Politico writes:

“- Speaking of tests, 69 percent of State Teachers of the Year and finalists for State Teacher of the Year say that federal policy that has most damaged the professionalization of the teaching profession has required the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. That’s according to new survey results released by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year:

“- In Connecticut, the state board will decide whether to adopt a state panel’s recommendation to delay linking student growth to teacher evaluations for the upcoming 2016-17 school year. Jennifer Alexander, CEO of the advocacy group ConnCAN, will testify in opposition to the measure, calling it “folding to political pressure and maintaining the status quo.” Meanwhile, the Connecticut General Assembly’s education committee has approved a bill that would ban the use of student growth in teacher evaluations.”

Last year, Camp Philos had its first meeting in a remote area of the Adirondacks of New York. Governor Cuomo was the keynote speaker at this gathering of philosophers who strategize about replacing public schools with private management and opening up the secure flow of government funding to private investors.

This year, the philosophers’ camp convened in Martha’s Vineyard, an equally inaccessible and very expensive location. It was in late October. Some of the stars of privatization were there, plus a few new faces.

The event was sponsored by the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and ConnCAN. The usual lineup of billionaires paid for this strategy session on how to steal democracy from the public, how to promote the ALEC agenda while calling yourself a Democrat.

This is an excellent letter to the editor that asks the right questions about charters:

Why do they get public money yet refuse to submit to public audits?

Why do they enroll fewer children in poverty?

Why do their leaders refuse to aid struggling public schools?

Why do they claim that the only way to help poor children is to move them to their privately managed schools?

Why do they refuse to acknowledge that public magnet schools outperform charter schools?

Why are charters the preferred “reform” of some of the state’s wealthiest citizens?

Why do charter advocates slander our public schools?