Editor's notebook: Why I didn't publish an op-ed from the Tea Party
For the sake of transparency — and because the Med City Beat recently published an op-ed from Rochester Public Schools in support of the upcoming school referendum — I feel obligated to explain why I did not publish a similar piece from the local Tea Party group.
As you have probably already seen by now, the group recently came under fire for publishing flyers that looked nearly identical to ones from the school district. The only differences, of course, were the "facts."
Many of those same numbers cited on the flyer were used in an op-ed submitted to the Med City Beat by Greg Gallas, board chair of the Rochester Tea Party Patriots. But there's one problem: many of the figures used are either inaccurate or misleading.
For example, Gallas says the district spent "over $4 million in consultant fees" during the 2014-15 school year. But according to the school district, that number is really about $168,904 — or about 4 percent of the figure Gallas is using.
He also states the district is spending $2 million per year on the district's one-to-one iPad program. But once again, that number is also false. The iPad implementation is costing the district $1.42 million over a four-year period.
It would be one thing if the numbers were even remotely close. But they're not. And it's not just the school district that disputes the figures; I also spoke with two other individuals outside the administration who questioned where the Tea Party chapter is getting their information.
In fairness, Gallas raises some legitimate concerns regarding the district's spending history and whether the additional funding will actually improve student outcomes. But the minute you start stretching the truth to back up your argument, you lose all credibility.
I asked the group to provide references to back up their figures but have not heard back. Gallas has published a similar editorial to the group's website. You can read that here.
About Sean Baker: Sean is the founder and editor of the Med City Beat. Under his direction, the site has transitioned from a small news blog to one of the most widely-read publications in the city. Prior to launching the site in 2014, Sean spent about two years producing television news in Green Bay and Rochester. His office is above a brewery, so please excuse any typos. Twitter.
(Cover graphic: Tea Party Patriots)