City teachers union launches television ad campaign targeting Andrew Cuomo’s ‘damaging education agenda’

By Ben Chapman and Lisa L. Colangelo

April 22, 2015

The latest salvo in the battle between Gov. Cuomo and the teachers unions was launched Tuesday when the educators kicked-off a multi-million dollar television ad campaign ripping the governor’s “damaging education agenda.”

The hard-charging, 30-second spot titled “History” slams Cuomo for wanting to “pile on high stakes testing. Privatize classrooms. And divert money away from public schools by giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy.”

City teachers union President Michael Mulgrew said the ad was created to counter a wave of pro-Cuomo education commercials currently flooding the airwaves.

Many of the pro-Cuomo ads were funded by StudentsFirstNY, a pro-charter school group. The unions and Cuomo have clashed over charter schools, which are mostly not unionized.

“We see the Governor is trying to rewrite history with the help of his hedge fund pals, ” Mulgrew told the Daily News. “Those ads are misleading. We want to set the record straight.”

Mulgrew would not say how much the union is paying for the ad, which started airing Tuesday in New York City and will run statewide starting Wednesday. He said the New York State United Teachers is picking up the tab for airtime outside of the city.

The anti-Cuomo ad will run for at least a week and possibly longer, Mulgrew said. It will air during popular shows such as “Scandal, ” the season finale of “The Americans, ” “American Crime, ” “The Blacklist, ” “Mad Men, ” and “The Daily Show, ” as well as Yankees and Mets baseball games.

Advertising experts said the unions’ new television campaign must have cost a pretty penny.

“These are some of the most expensive shows to purchase on TV, ” said Brad Adgate, an analyst at Horizon Media, a media buying agency.

“They were selected carefully for an audience that might be a little more educated, more engaged.”

According to Tarrytown, NY-based SQAD LLC, the leading advertising cost and forecasting firm, the average cost of a 30-second commercial on prime time TV in April in New York City is between $17, 000-18, 000.

However, some hit shows like “Scandal” can cost as much as $40, 000.

The teachers unions and Cuomo have battled over a package of education reforms Cuomo added into the state budget, including provisions to increase the importance of students’ scores on standardized exams for teacher ratings.

Cuomo’s reforms also included merit pay for strong teachers and scholarships for aspiring teachers who want to teach in New York state.

StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis defended the governor’s education reforms.

“Governor Cuomo and the legislature came to a deal that makes schools better by changing rules like automatic tenure for life after three years, ” Sedlis said. “The teachers’ unions don’t like it because their job is to protect the lowest performing teachers, instead of students who deserve the best.”

A Cuomo administration official slammed the union’s ad campaign as a political attack.

“This is political operatives at the teachers union who spend millions of dollars in their political spin machine to pad their $500, 000 salaries at the expense of New York’s students, ” said a Cuomo administration official.

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