When Cathleen P. Black, the schools chancellor, testified before the State Legislature on Tuesday about what she called the unavoidable teacher layoffs in New York City that would take place if the governor’s proposed education budget were approved, a line from her remarks might have rung familiar to regular watchers of television ads.
“The answer is obvious: Keep the most effective teachers, whether they have been in the system 2 years or 22 years,” Ms. Black told members of the Assembly and Senate budget committees.
Ms. Black borrowed the line from an op-ed piece she wrote last month. But since Thursday, a nearly identical line — spoken by a teacher — has been featured in a widely broadcast one-minute advertisement placed by backers of the mayor’s agenda, in a war of commercials with the teachers’ union on the issue of seniority-based firing.
The anti-seniority advertisement, paid for by an organization called Education Reform Now, features three New York City schoolteachers explaining why they think firing by seniority hurts children.
“If there have to be layoffs, we should keep the best teachers — it’s that simple,” Rogelio Herrera Jr., a teacher at Public School 1 in the Bronx, says in the ad. Finishing the thought, Jane Viau, a teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, says, “Whether that means they’re a second-year teacher or a 22nd-year teacher.”
The echo of the wording may be coincidental, but the close ties between the group that paid for the advertisement, the professionals that made it, and backers of the mayor’s education agenda are anything but.
Education Reform Now is an advocacy organization headed by Joel I. Klein, the former schools chancellor. The public relations company that produced the ad is SKD Knickerbocker, and its producer, the organization’s president said, is Josh Isay, a political consultant who advised Mr. Bloomberg during his 2005 re-election campaign and his 2008 fight to eliminate term limits.
Bradley Tusk, the campaign manager for Mr. Bloomberg in his 2009 campaign, said in an e-mail that he helped conceptualize the advertisement. He has his own political consultancy, Tusk Strategies Inc. Also on staff at Education Reform Now, in charge of field operations, is Patrick Van Keerbergen, who worked on the mayor’s 2009 re-election campaign.
Stefan Friedman, an executive at Knickerbocker who has been a political consultant to the mayor, handles the Education Reform Now account. The firm also handles communications for Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee that shares a telephone number with Education Reform Now’s New York Office. Joe Williams is both the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform and the president of Education Reform Now.
Knickerbocker also represents Educators 4 Excellence, which calls itself an “independent voice for educators” made up of former and current public-school teachers who oppose seniority-based firing. That group on Monday laid out a plan to more easily fire teachers that echoes Mr. Bloomberg’s public remarks on the subject.
And the three teachers in the Education Reform Now ad are part of Educators 4 Excellence, said Kerri Lyon, who handles their account at Knickerbocker, and who worked under Mr. Klein at the Department of Education press office until last year.
Mr. Williams said Monday that the groups he worked for have agendas similar to the mayor’s sometimes, but differences as well, and that they do push back.
“If we had a ban on hiring people who have worked for the mayor, we probably couldn’t hire anyone in New York,” he said of the political consultants Education Reform Now works with. Every one “was on the mayor’s payroll.”
It's such a coincidence that the DFER's, the mayor, Education Reform Now and the Asshats4Educators all have the same agenda and the same advertising and consulting people working for them but claim to be, you know, independent from one another.
Here at Perdido Street School, we don't have ANYBODY working for us.
We write our own own copy.
Here's some copy straight off the presses for you - ALL of these groups - the mayor, the chancellor, the DFER's, Education Reform Now, and the Asshats ARE CONNECTED.
THEY ARE THE SAME GROUP.
Just follow the money and follow the advertising and consulting people working for them.
So the next time one of these commercials run, you can say "Look, the mayor is running another anti-union commercial."
Same goes for the next time one of the ex-teachers in the Asshats4Educators has a press conference to read off recommendations about layoffs they're giving the mayor to use that the mayor's people wrote for them.
The level of corruption in this endeavor is astounding.
It's not all that different from the level of corruption The Nation detailed in Bloomberg's attempts to manipulate the Comcast-NBC Universal merger to his advantage.
That a billionaire oligarch can manipulate the airwaves and public opinion like this with impunity is a sign that democracy in America needs an Egyptian-like cleansing moment wherein all these corrupt influences are flushed down the toilet and out into the Atlantic.