ALBANY – While the governor and many other elected state representatives ran for office last year with Education Reform as a main plank in their campaigns, the big winners of 2014 were actually Education lobby groups.
A new report from the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics places two education entities, at opposite ends of the reform argument, in the top spots in its list of biggest-spending lobbyists for 2014. The report also shows that 2014 was another record-breaking year for lobbying groups in Albany.
Overall, 2014 set a new record of $226 million in total spending ($15.8 million in advertising expenses) and $194.2 million in compensation paid to lobbyists, JCOPE reported. Lobbying spending in 2014 increased approximately 8 percent over 2013.
The pro-charter school group Families for Excellent Schools was first with $9.6 million spent on advertising and event-related expenses.
A distant second was the New York State United Teachers union (NYSUT), with $3.2 million in lobbying expenditures.
The two rivals remain fierce antagonists in the ongoing fight over education spending and the best way to turn around under-performing schools. The charter group has been a staunch and generous ally of the governor, who has described public schools as “one of the only remaining public monopolies” and slammed union leaders as self-interested enemies of progress.
NYSUT has assailed Cuomo for what it characterizes as unfair scapegoating of teachers. It charges the charter advocates and similar groups are working at the behest of shadowy Wall Street tycoons engineering a hostile takeover of the education system.