Education talks should happen in public

A work group of top state officials has been meeting in Lansing recently and is reportedly looking to create a prototype of a new K-12 “value school” in the Upper Peninsula.

The group, whose existence only came to light after a story published last week in The Detroit News, has been meeting since December and is apparently hoping to craft a technology-centric charter school, controlled by Brimley’s Bay Mills Community College, within the next 16 months.

The goal of the project is to develop a school that costs just $5,000 per child annually to operate – that’s roughly $2,000 lower than the state’s current minimum per pupil funding level.

While there is something to be said for getting a higher value for your investment, we are surprised at this move by Gov. Rick Snyder, who has repeatedly talked about the importance of funding education. According to the governor’s own website, one of the state’s most pressing needs is “ensuring that students are prepared to enter the work force and to take advantage of new opportunities as our economy grows.”

Yet a group of state officials – some top aides to Snyder himself – have been meeting behind closed doors and using private email addresses to share information. All this, apparently, in the service of educating Michigan’s kids with even fewer resources.

Snyder’s chief information officer, who is in charge of the group, said the value school concept is “in line with what (Snyder) wants to do.” When establishing the 20-member group that would debate the future of state education, the Snyder rep selected charter school advocates, state workers, private sector employees and a single teacher, who has since departed.

We would hope Snyder would consider getting opinions from those in the realm of public education – teachers, administrators, students, parents – before agreeing with the conclusions reached by a group of private sector business representatives.

Additionally, if Snyder and his aides really want to have a discussion about altering something as important as the funding of our statewide education system, we would urge them to talk about the topic openly and in a public setting.