Thom Tillis, the Republican challenger to North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, has found himself in the sights of the country’s largest teachers union.
The National Education Association Advocacy Fund, the Super PAC for a national union with over 3 million members, has made a $1.7 million ad buy in the state of North Carolina, with the goal of tearing apart Tillis on the issue of education. The ad buy is an enormous third-party expenditure, even for what has been the most costly Senate race of the 2014 cycle.
The $1.7 million buy will blanket six of the state’s top television markets in an add for the next week. The ad features Chapel Hill High School teacher Vivian Connell, who accuses Tillis, currently the speaker of the state house, of spearheading $500 million in budget cuts that have compelled students to cram into overcrowded classrooms and to share textbooks with one another.
“I always want my students to start with facts, and the fact is that Thom Tillis is terrible for education in North Carolina,” Connell says in the ad. Connell herself has already drawn attention in the state for battling an ALS diagnosis and for raising money online in an effort to take her students to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
In a blog post accompanying the ad campaign’s announcement, the NEA accuses Tillis of being a pawn of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that drafts model legislation for conservative state legislators. ALEC, the NEA says, is a front for far-right corporate interests opposed to public education.
Education has proven to be a top issue in the Tar Heel State race, despite the Senate’s role in education being rather limited. As a result, the NEA’s ads accompany those run by Hagan herself, as well as another campaign crafted by EMILY’s List, a PAC that helps Democratic women.
The claim that Tillis helped helped cut education spending by half a billion dollars has proven contentious, as education spending has actually increased every year of his speakership. Instead, the claim is rooted in $480 million in cuts Republicans made to a proposed “continuation budget” that school leaders said was necessary to maintain the current level of education services after accounting for population growth, inflation, and other factors.
Tillis has also defended himself by pointing out that he helped pass a 7 percent increase in North Carolina teacher pay over the summer.
The National Education Association did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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