To the Editor:
The propaganda campaign for a Shrewsbury operating budget override is now in high gear, and the Community Advocate made it clear that it supports this campaign when it published a lengthy front page article in its November 15, 2013 edition titled “Class sizes in Shrewsbury causing teacher headaches, achievement gaps”. (communityadvocate.com/2013/11/14/under-pressure-class-sizes-in-shrewsbury-causing-teacher-headaches-achievement-gaps). This article was completely one-sided. Every person quoted and every statistic presented was implicitly advocating for an operating budget override. There was not a single comment by a person likely to oppose such an override. One wonders if the school department wrote the article for the reporter – it certainly could not have written one more favorable for its purposes.
Articles such as this one are part of the broader campaign of local officials to attempt to indoctrinate Shrewsbury voters in the need for an operating budget override. The latest Fiscal Study Committee was surely formed with the goal of generating a report that would promote an operating budget override. Also, the selectmen will soon sign off on their 2014 policies, and you can bet that they will drop the statement rejecting an override. These are not coincidences.
An override might be a good idea if it was coupled with permanent changes in the cost structure and policies of the school department, but officials have repeatedly refused even to discuss such changes. As long as they refuse to offer substantive concessions as part of a compromise, taxpayers should continue to reject operating budget overrides.
And as always, Shrewsbury residents should be careful of all statistics prepared by the school department. The Shrewsbury student/teacher ratio shown in the article for 2012-13 is another case in point. The Department of Education website shows this ratio based on a teacher count of 286.4 (FTE's), but the same website shows a teacher count of 347.2 in the prior year (2011-2012). If both of these numbers were correct, over 60 teaching FTE's would have been eliminated in that year. That did not happen. Whatever happened to cause this large reported change, the school department was remiss in not explaining it. Expect similar data problems to continue.