Bill DeBlasio
Bill DeBlasio

Tusk Strategies, political consulting/strategic communications shop, is coordinating the effort to torpedo New York mayor Bill de Blasio's push to kill the admissions test for the city's eight specialized high schools

The New York firm represents a new coalition of community groups called Education Equity Campaign that wants to increase diversity in the top schools. EEC notes that while Black and Latino students make up 70 percent of public school enrollment, they account for only 10 percent of admissions to the elite schools.

The group's plan is to offer greater access to gifted student programs, elevate standards of middle schools, double the number of specialized schools—there are 15K seats for 360K students—offer free test prep and encourage every eighth-grader to take the admissions test.

De Blasio would scuttle the admissions test and admit the top seven percent of middle school graduates to the top schools

He has drawn pushback from specialized high school alumni and the Asian-American community, which earned 51 percent of the offers for seats at the top schools.

New York business leaders have rallied in support of EEC. Cosmetics tycoon Ron Lauder, who graduated from Bronx High School of Science, plans to spend "seven figures" to back EEC, according to the New York Post. Former Time Warner chief Dick Parsons also has signed on.

De Blasio's spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie defended his plan: "Our best high schools do not represent the diversity that makes our city great," she said. "We will not let a few millionaires deter us from reforming this flawed admissions system."

Tusk Strategies, which is receiving $7,500 monthly from EEC, will target Albany lawmakers in the push. A 1971 state law created the specialized high school admission test.

Bradley Tusk is a veteran of New York politics, gained from serving as former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg's campaign manager and communications director for Senator Chuck Schumer.