Big Money Enters Debate Over Race and Admissions at Stuyvesant

Follow the money they typically say.

Ronald S. Lauder, the billionaire cosmetics heir, and Richard D. Parsons, the former chairman of Citigroup, have for decades had their hands in New York City affairs. Mr. Lauder ran a failed bid for mayor and successfully led a campaign for term limits for local elected officials. Mr. Parsons has been a prominent adviser to two mayors.

Now, they are teaming up to try to influence one of the city’s most intractable and divisive debates: how to address the lack of black and Hispanic students at Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and the other elite public high schools that use a test to determine admission.

Mr. Lauder this week announced that he was financing a multimillion-dollar lobbying, public relations and advertising effort called the Education Equity Campaign, whose immediate goal is to ensure that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to eliminate the entrance exam does not pass the State Legislature, people involved in the effort said.


Tusk Strategies, a political strategy firm with close ties to Mr. Bloomberg, said it was orchestrating the effort for a fee of between $50,000 and $150,000 a month.

Also on the payroll are Albany lobbying firms, including Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates and Bolton St.-Johns, known for their connections to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration and the State Legislature, respectively.

The group’s board of advisers, who are also being compensated, includes education experts who have supported Mr. Bloomberg’s accountability-driven brand of education reform.

The public face of the campaign, the Rev. Kirsten John Foy, whose civil rights organization is receiving a contribution for its involvement, is a prominent minister and a Sharpton ally. The campaign is planning to spend at least $1 million on advertisements alone. Neither the website nor the ads bear any mention of Mr. Lauder or Mr. Parsons.