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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Ronald Lauder plans to save NYC gifted and talented program

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Ronald Lauder is planning a seven-figure gift for the gifted.

The cosmetics billionaire and philanthropist is preparing a full-court press to save the city’s gifted and talented program.

The advertising and PR campaign comes despite Mayor-elect Eric Adams promise to reverse Mayor de Blasio’s decision to scrap the program.

“I trust Eric Adams completely,” Lauder insisted, saying the two recently had a friendly visit at the billionaire’s Manhattan home. “[But] I think that when he gets in, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him to get rid of it, because there are many, many interests that are not necessarily about the future of gifted and talented schools and more about what is … political.”

Lauder and his longtime partner in education issues, former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, have partnered with the the consulting shop Tusk Strategies, which most recently ran Andrew Yang’s mayoral campaign.

“Ronald Lauder and Dick are going to give Mayor-elect Adams paid media support to help their case,” Tusk Co-CEO Chris Coffey told The Post.

More than 200 supporters of the city’s Gifted and Talented program massed at Department of Education headquarters Thursday
Supporters of the city’s Gifted and Talented program demonstrate at Department of Education headquarters.
jasminephoto.com

The spend will go to digital, print and radio ads with television spots also possible. The campaign will also team with grassroots groups to lobby the new City Council and is preparing “activist stunts” with parent groups to make sure the issue stays in the news.

There isn’t a hard dollar amount. People familiar with the plans say $500,000 has already been budgeted in the coming weeks, and millions more is ready to go if needed.

It’s not Lauder’s first foray into education issues. He and Parsons successfully fought to defend the city’s endangered Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, spending millions on that effort since 2019 through their Education Equity Campaign.

“De Blasio could not have been a worse mayor for education and we fought him and we won on specialized schools but it wasn’t easy,” Lauder recalled.

Critics have called both the SHSAT and the gifted and talented programs racist, citing poor minority enrollment numbers.

“You can call anything racist. It’s open to all, so how can it be racist?” Lauder said, dismissing the charge.

He said the achievement gap among minority students had to do with access to test prep and crowed about results showing minority students tutored by EEC significantly outperformed the citywide average.

Gifted and Talented protesters
Critics of gifted and talented programs have called them racist.
AP Photo/John Minchillo, File

Lauder, 77, ran for mayor himself in 1989 (losing the GOP nomination to Rudy Giuliani) and spent $4 million on a successful campaign to implement term limits on elected city leaders in 1993. More recently Lauder, who also serves as President of the World Jewish Congress, pledged $25 million to a campaign to fight anti-Semitism.



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