The National Education Association launched a seven-figure TV ad buy Friday in North Carolina, slamming GOP Senate hopeful Thom Tillis for education spending cuts that occurred under his watch as state House Speaker.
The $1.7 million purchase is the latest in a series of significant investments from Democratic political action committees trying to ensure incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan ekes out a win in the nation’s tightest and most expensive senatorial race—and one that could help decide which party controls the Senate.
The teachers’ union ad features a veteran North Carolina teacher, Vivian Connell, who teaches English and English-as-a-second-language at Chapel Hill High School.
[UPDATE (10:00 AM): A previous version of this story said Connell is a former teacher. In fact, Connell spent 20 years in the classroom before leaving to earn her law degree from University of North Carolina. After graduating, she turned down a Supreme Court clerkship to return to teaching. She is also an advisory board member of Public Schools First, NC, a nonprofit that advocates for access to quality public eduction.]
The 30-second spot will air in 95 percent of the state, according to the NEA, and comes just two days after education issues headlined the first of three debates between Hagan and Tillis.
“Thom Tillis is terrible for education in North Carolina,” Connell begins. “He cut $500 million from our budget. His cuts go so deep that there are no longer enough textbooks to go around.”
“Tillis even voted to increase class sizes so kids don’t get the attention they need,” she continues. “The fact is, Thom Tillis hurts North Carolina students.”
You can watch the entire campaign ad here.
Tillis, for his part, has one education-focused campaign ad running across the state in which he touts a 7 percent pay raise for teachers that was part of a budget deal he helped usher through the state legislature in August.
Both Hagan and Tillis have rejected each other’s claims.
In Tillis’ case, the actual amount of teacher raises will vary considerably depending on how much they were previously earning. While no teacher would make less than he or she did the prior year, actual raises would vary from less than 1 percent, for a 30-year veteran, to more than 18 percent for teachers entering their fifth and sixth years in the classroom.
In Hagan’s case, Tillis didn’t actually preside over a $500 million cut to education spending—lawmakers just didn’t fund education to the extent budget experts said it needed to be funded in order to prevent any decrease in services.