Peter Buck is a physicist turned fast-food chain mogul, one of the co-founders of the Subway Restaurant chain. Now in his ninth decade of life, and worth $3.2 billion, he's deep into the push to expand charter schools.
While Buck isn't yet a national player in charter school giving, he's got the money to become one and obviously an intense passion for charters. All that, along with his advanced age, 83, makes him somebody to watch very closely.
Most of Buck's funding is regional, particularly when it comes to education and charters. He lives in Danbury, Connecticut, and much -- but not all -- of his giving in channeled through the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation (or the PCLB Foundation as it prefers to be known as), which is located in Manhattan. It's in New York and Connecticut where the foundation has focused its support of charter schools.
Let's take a closer look at what exactly the PCLB Foundation has been funding
Between the start of 2011 and June 2013, the foundation gave $5 million to Achievement First (AF), a network of charter schools in the New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island area. That's pretty big money, and the foundation has been a key part of the successful and controversial push to expand charter schools in Connecticut.
The state's chapter of the American Federation of Teachers has sharply criticized this trend, saying that charter schools increase education disparities and the racial isolation of students, invite corruption, and lack proper oversight. But the schools that the foundation backs, both in Connecticut in other states, claim to be getting great results.
There's a total of 15 AF schools in Brooklyn, 10 in Connecticut, mostly contained within the inner-cities of Hartford and New Haven, and AF opened its first school in Rhode Island last year. AF's Providence Mayoral Academy Elementary in Rhode Island claims that its students go from reading at around 25 percent the average first grade reading level at the start of first grade, to reading nearly 25 percent better than the average second grader by the end of first grade.
Other schools that the PCLB Foundation supports claim similar results. Jumoke Academy in Hartford has been a consistent recipient of money from the foundation, receiving $680,000 in 2012 and $250,000 in 2013. Jumoke boasts an 100 percent proficiency rating for third graders in writing and a 94 percent proficiency in mathematics.
Right now, Buck and his foundation are big fish in the pond of Northeast charter school giving. But what about the future? Will Buck become a bigger funder at the national scene?
That's hard to say. While his foundation has made some grants to national groups, these have been been the exception and the grantmaking almost always ties back to his home region. But one thing is clear: Buck sees the importance of investing in advocacy, and not all his foundation's money has gone to schools or hands-on groups like Teach for America. The PCLB Foundation also put money into advocacy shops like Education Reform Now and ConnCAN.
So if Buck started funding groups in Washington one day, we wouldn't be surprised. Keep in mind: The guy has a lot of money he still hasn't touched, and while he hasn't signed the Giving Pledge, a lot of it is likely destined for philanthropy.
For more information on Peter Buck and his education philanthropy read our IP profile of what his foundation is doing.