Governor Snyder’s office and corporate interests conspire in “secret work group” to bring voucher system to Michigan K-12 education

    In November, I told you about an attempt on the part of the Michigan Republicans to create a parallel, for-profit education system, right alongside the Michigan public school system, unanswerable to anyone, save for an appointee of the Governor. Well, according to a report in yesterday’s Detroit News, things are progressing quickly thanks to the efforts of a “secret work group” composed of members of the Governor’s staff, representatives of the Koch-funded Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and the leaders of several for-profit corporations, like Royal Oak’s Vectorform, Ann Arbor’s InfoReady, Grand Rapids’ Huizenga Group, and Troy’s Billhighway. The secret task force of 20, according to the News, had only one educator, Paul Galbenski, the Oakland Schools business teacher who won Michigan’s Educator of the Year award in 2011, but he quit the group after coming to the realization that they weren’t looking to improve our existing schools, but to create something “outside of the Michigan public school system” altogether. The following clip comes by way of the Detroit News.

    …The education reform advisory team has dubbed itself a “skunk works” project working outside of the government bureaucracy and education establishment with a goal of creating a “value school” that costs $5,000 per child annually to operate, according to meeting minutes and reports obtained by The Detroit News.

    The records show designers of the “value school” are in talks with Bay Mills Community College about opening a technology-centric charter school by August 2014. The school would seek to maximize the roughly $7,000 annual per-pupil funding regular schools get from taxpayers by applying “concepts familiar in the private sector — getting higher value for less money.”

    Other records distributed to group members indicate they want to explore using fewer teachers and more instruction through long-distance video conferencing. Each “value school” student would receive a “Michigan Education Card” to pay for their “tuition” — similar to the electronic benefits transfer used to distribute food stamps and cash assistance for the poor.

    Students could use leftover money on the “EduCard” for high school Advanced Placement courses, music lessons, sport team fees, remedial education or cyber courses, according to an outline of the advisory team’s agenda.

    Snyder confirmed Thursday the existence of the work group, but told The News “there is not a specific outcome” for the project…

    And, when they say “leftover money,” they don’t, as I understand it, mean the balance of the $7,000 which is to be allotted per-pupil at the beginning of the school year, but the balance of those funds which remain after the above-mentioned for-profit entities take their cut, which, I’ve heard, is likely to be about $2,000 per student. So, essentially, according to this vision, we’ll be educating our children for $5,000 per year, and handing $2,000 over to the companies running the system. And, if kids should happen to use less than that $5,000, they’ll be given the balance on their “EduCard”, so they can do extracurricular things like purchase online American history modules of questionable value from the likes of Mike Huckabee.

    Michigan Education Association (MEA) President Steve Cook had the following to say when made aware of the secret initiative.

    …The members of this self-defined ‘skunk works’ come from the same political and corporate interests who pushed through a tax break for themselves that was paid for by a $1 billion cut to our children’s schools. Now they’re developing a secret plan to cheapen our kids’ education and replace teachers with teleconferencing. Their skunk works moniker is very accurate – this plan truly stinks.

    Their goal to create so-called ‘value schools’ would spend less than half what we currently spend to educate a student, putting those remaining meager funds on debit cards for parents and students to purchase their learning – not unlike food stamps. Such schools would use long-distance video conferencing instead of qualified, professional teachers working with students.

    Snyder’s secret group deliberately shut out input from educators in favor of information technology companies who stand to make money off this scheme. This is a direct attempt to undermine elected school boards, principals and school employees, and it’s a slap in the face to teachers and education support professionals, who work tirelessly to educate our children every day.

    Rather than holding secret meetings with corporate special interests to concoct new school voucher schemes and value-meal education, Snyder should be making the proper funding of our kids’ schools a top priority.

    Michigan kids deserve a world-class education – not a dime store diploma.

    It’s also worth noting that the use of so-called vouchers is presently illegal according to the Michigan constitution, which clearly says that public aid cannot be directed toward non-public schools. And the voters of Michigan overwhelmingly rejected constitutional amendments in 1978 and 2000 that would have changed that. Clearly, though, Snyder and company feel as though they have a way around the little problem of illegality.

    So, just to recap… We’re presently not able to adequately educate our kids for $7,000 per pupil, so we’re going to try a radical solution. Instead of hiring better teachers, putting kids in smaller classrooms, and investing more, we’re going to fire experienced (and thus more costly) teachers, and invest significantly less. And we’re going to “empower” our students by giving them a choice as to which online edutainment service they choose to sign up for (the one sponsored by Taco Bell, or the one sponsored by Coke). The unfettered free market, you see, will solve everything. All we have to do is remove teachers from the equation.

    On a side note, I find it kind of ironic that these same Republicans who are now fighting so hard to get quality educational content streaming into the cubicles of Michigan’s students are the same ones who demand every year that we slash the budget of Sesame Street, the one program which has actually been shown to improve the intellectual aptitude of children… I hate to by cynical, but I have to wonder if maybe it’s not the quality of the content they really care about, or event the education of the students themselves, but the potential revenue that they represent.

    And, before you leave a comment about how this wasn’t being done in secret, you should know that it’s been reported that Snyder’s Chief Information Officer, David Behen, asked members of this group to communicate by way of their private email accounts, and not their state ones, which would be more easily accessible by way of FOIA. That, I think, says it all.

    Oh, and here’s a great quote, if you want a laugh. It comes from Governor Snyder himself: “Michigan’s citizens are tired of the divisive political culture in Lansing. Midnight deals, closed doors meetings, lobbyists, and special interest influence have stood in the way of long-term solutions. As Governor, I will ensure that government is open, fair, and accountable to the citizens by making Michigan a national leader in transparency and ethics.”

    Lastly, I don’t have the time to dig too deeply into this at the moment, but a cursory search shows me that InfoReady CEO Bhushan Kulkarni was among the top contributors to Snyder’s campaign for Governor. Make of that what you will…

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      35 Comments

      1. tommy
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        Wow. I am completely speechless. If this is pushed, it will ruin public education. We should from here on in begin to refer to these Republicans a a bunch of motherfuckers because that is exactly what they are

      2. Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        I think it’s worth mentioning that David Behen was Washtenaw County Deputy Administrator for quite a while. And in that same article, here’s what he had to say:

        “Behen said he and the other four state employees are mostly working after-hours on the project with Friday evening and Saturday meetings.
        Why are we using private email addresses? Because it’s just easier,” Behen said. “There’s nothing secret or anything about this.”

        Oh no, nothing secret…

      3. Edward
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        The people of Michigan soundly defeated the Emergency Manager legislation in the polls, but yet we still have Emergency Managers. Our votes mean nothing. We’ve got down vouchers twice, and it won’t matter. They’ll find a way. This is too important to them. Privatizing schools will kill the teachers union, and rob the Michigan Democratic Party of one of its most reliable sources for funds and volunteers. This is a win, win, win for Snyder and company. It kills the union, it puts tax dollars into the pockets of his donors, and it keeps the population stupid.

      4. anonymous
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

        A national leader in transparency?

        More like a national leader in dismantling public education.

      5. Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        I just read an article by someone who used to work for the Ann Arbor News, talking about how the entire newspaper industry has changed. I suppose at some point I should begin preparing myself for how the education field will change. I wonder which I should do first ~ get a boob job and go to a fat farm so I can look super hot on a video and get lots of “likes” from the kids who are watching me lecture on reading strategies; practice dropping statements like “McDonald’s is awesome!” and “Drink some delicious Mountain Dew!” in the middle of my statements; invent some software that lets students show much they have “learned” from videos by merely blinking their eyes at the screen at select times.

        And once again, ladies & gentlemen, I’d like to mention that there is no mention of special education kids in any of this. I honestly think the next thing is going to be to reopen institutions (private ones, of course) and begin funneling special ed kids there.

      6. Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

        If you’re going to teach fractions using a pizza anyway, it might as well be a Domino’s pizza.

      7. anonymous
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 5:42 am | Permalink

        Speaking of education reform:

        http://imgur.com/a/pPJmj#0

      8. wobblie
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 5:55 am | Permalink

        The four state employees are obviously doing this as part of their jobs. Using “private” emails means in fact that the “private” emails are now state property. The laws are such that if you use your personal email in the course of your officials duties, they now become state property. This does not protect them from public disclosure, it only makes it more difficult. The MEA, and what passes for journalist in this state should be filing FOIA demands on all of the participants demanding that they turn over all emails associated with this state function. We long ago stripped employees of the ability to protect their emails. If anyone used state resource, say a work computer, we can determine all the other email addresses. Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell thought that using his private email would protect him, but since he used a state computer to access his emails—he lost his job and the subsequent law suit.

      9. anonymous
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 6:10 am | Permalink

        So, the rich will get their $5,000 from the state, whether it comes in the form of a voucher or an education card, and they’ll spend their money at the private schools of their choice, which likely have tuitions of more than double that, meaning that the poor they’re looking to “empower” won’t have that same option. Instead, they’ll be shunted off to a for-profit teleconferencing center somewhere overseen by an armed guard instead of a teacher. Fucking amazing.

      10. Topher
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

        The scary part to me, as a teacher, isn’t that there are possible reforms to public education – the scary part for me is that much of this is being pushed through with very little thought in regard to research and also in regard to how this system would logistically work (or not work).

        As someone who has taught in private school, I wonder what parents of students in high socio-economic levels would think of putting their children in ‘value schools’ where technology drives the school (the implication here is that much of the instruction would happen via a computer and some type of assessment through a computer). I can say that the teachers and leaders that I worked with in private school would laugh out loud at this idea as ridiculous for their student population – private schools know that what they offer is one-on-one time and instruction to students, a clear sense of unique culture, and small class sizes that allow for each student to work at his/her pace with direct instruction from the teacher.

        Peter Ruddell, of The Oxford Foundation, talked at the State Board of Education community forum very openly about the fact that he was not commissioned to think about the logistics of PEFA (Public Education Finance Act). He said that the governor asked him and The Oxford Foundation to write the legislature in order to push it through. You can watch his fumbling explanations here: http://blip.tv/ctnannarbor/the-future-of-education-6560753

        There are much smarter ways to offer choices to students (such as the Early College Alliance at EMU). Simply having choices (when it comes to education), when they’re poorly thought out choices, does not seem to be good options to me.

      11. Robert
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

        Public education was a nice idea…so was democracy. Let it go. It’s time to more forward folks.

      12. Tammy
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

        If Democrats are setting the tone for continued privatization of everything, why should we cry foul when Republicans explore same?

      13. Oliva
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        Such a sick, sordid history of school voucher efforts in this country, notably in Virginia after Brown v. Board of Education, so it’s completely disgusting that Eric Cantor of Virginia is leading the push for school vouchers. And Snyder, who benefited enormously from public education, is a skunk all right. The tricksters call this publicly funded re-segregation scheme, with its potent built-in union-busting assurances, “school choice,” counting on Americans’ willingness to forget even recent history.

        Here’s a long passage re. immediate post-Brown v. Board of Education efforts by white Virginians to implement the school voucher system to avoid integrating the public schools:

        “Massive Resistance” to Integration

        In the South and elsewhere, reaction to the Brown decision is swift and negative (in some cases violently so). Virginia is ruled by Senator Harry Byrd’s political machine, and he issues a “Southern Manifesto” calling for “Massive Resistance” to school integration (and, by implication, rigid maintenance of all other forms of racial segregation).

        [Note that Senator Harry Byrd is not related to the equally pro-segregation Senator Robert Byrd of neighboring West Virginia.]

        Byrd’s “Massive Resistance” strategy to maintain school segregation is widely adopted by school boards and state governments throughout the South, and by 1956 more than 100 southern office-holders have signed the manifesto. In Virginia, for example, the 1954 the Democratic Party gubernatorial campaign platform resolves that, “The state [will] oppose it [integration] with every facility at our command, and with every ounce of our energy.”

        The details of “Massive resistance” to school integration vary from state to state and county to county. In Virginia, for example, it includes:

        Enactment of state laws eliminating funding — or closing — integrated public schools, and allowing the state to seize and close any school that dares to integrate.

        The power to assign students to specific schools is removed from local school boards and placed in a state-wide board of appointees who, of course, refuse to assign any Black child to a previously all-white school.

        When schools are closed to prevent integration, white students are issued grants (today they’re called “vouchers”) that can be used to pay tuition for segregated private schooling because private school segregation was not prohibited by the Brown decision.

        Tax credits are also granted to parents who send their children to segregated private schools.

        Laws are enacted allowing local school boards to use public funds to pay for transporting white students to segregated private schools.

        Teachers who attended college on state scholoarships that require them to teach in Virginia’s public schools are allowed to fulfill their obligation by teaching in segregated private schools, and to continue participating in the state teacher retirement system while doing so.

        When the Court of Appeals overturns the law allowing the state to close integrated schools, the legislature repeals the state-wide compulsory school-attendance law. In effect, this means that counties are no longer required to provide public schools, and they can choose to close their schools if they wish to do so. Counties are permitted to pass local compulsory attendence laws if they so desire, but county-level compulsory attendance laws are required to allow parents to withdraw their children from integrated schools, even if no other schooling is available.

        Alabama Attorney General (and later Governor) John Patterson explained it this way:

        We concluded then that we could never win the legal battle, that you could not square a dual [school] system of that sort under our federal Constitution. … and that the best thing for us to do would be to never admit that, of course, but to fight a delaying action in the courts. … delay every way we could do it. … avoid having a decision made in court, if possible, at all costs, anticipating that the decision would be against us. Now this was our approach. … so that they’d [Blacks] have to take us on, on a broad front, in a multitude of cases. — John Patterson. [4]

        Virginia’s Prince Edward County (site of the Student Strike at Moton High that helped initiate the desegregation movement) becomes a model for “Massive Resistance” on the part of the white authorities. A new and larger Moton High School is built in 1954 in an effort to show that the school board is providing “separate but equal” facilities to Blacks. The old Moton High buildings are converted to a Black elementary school. This ploy, the new state laws, and the Supreme Court’s 1955 “All Deliberate Speed” decision, allow Prince Edward county to maintain segregation for more than a decade.
        –http://www.crmvet.org/tim/timhis54.htm

        A little more from the end of a piece on Cantor leading the school “choice”–read: publicly funded re-segregation–efforts:

        In short, a child of privilege aiding other children of privilege with tax dollars. I want what I want when I want it,” indeed. Sadly, nothing new now. It was Kurt Vonnegut who said “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” Boy, was he right.
        –guest blogger Mark Esposito,
        http://jonathanturley.org/2013/03/17/eric-cantor-and-the-gops-assault-on-public-schools/

      14. Meta
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Your comment about Coke and Taco Bell may not be too far off the mark.

        From the Washington Post:

        Talk about corporate-based school reform. New high-stakes standardized tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards are featuring plugs for commercial products. And the companies didn’t have to pay a penny.

        Yes, New York state students who this past week took Pearson-designed exams were just treated to plugs for LEGO, Mug Root Beer and more products from at least half a dozen companies, according to the New York Post.

        One teacher who administered the test was quoted as saying: “I’ve been giving this test for eight years and have never seen the test drop trademarked names in passages — let alone note the trademark at the bottom of the page.”

        Read more:
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/20/new-standardized-tests-feature-plugs-for-commercial-products/

      15. Elliott
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        Why would you need professional educators to plan education reform? It’s not like you consult with engineers when building highways, or doctors when retooling health care policy.

        Seriously, this just shows how little these men respect the work of teachers. They don’t think they do anything but babysit.

      16. Elliott
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        “value school…. preparing you for a career at value world”

      17. Maria
        Posted April 21, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        This whole idea of David Behen, who ever the heck he is, ( a or the mike duggan doppelganger?) running an education committee in secrecy is truly appalling. Kids costs, it’s a very well known secret us parents know quite well. This whole nightmare education plan smells like the administration wanted to do a quiet legislative maneuver, kind of like what they did with RTW in December, and thank god, someone in the press found out about this.Getting public email records isn’t that easy, and while I’m happy to hear that private emails about public matters is public, if they are essentially unaccessible in practicality, that doesn’t help.

      18. Posted April 21, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        As I was drifting off into my Sunday nap, I realized that we are really onto something hear re: advertising in lessons. In addition to using the pizza to teach fractions, we could use Dasani water to teach the water cycle, Lipton tea bags to talk about the Boston Tea Party (and later, the teabagger party) and so on. Let’s get to marketing! I think we can really make something out of this, friends.

      19. Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        I think I need to stop reading education-related (or Michigan-related) news during lunch break, because my blinding rage is probably interfering with my current job as an underpaid, overtrained, debt-ridden babysitter.

        Let’s cripple Michigan kids a little more, please. Have you read about the proposed changes to HS requirements, too?

      20. Edward
        Posted April 23, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        They’re saying the group is disbanding, which I’m sure doesn’t mean anything. But, still, it’s a recognition that they know people are watching.

        From the Detroit News:

        Michigan’s school chief on Monday urged the disbanding of a work group that has been secretly developing ways to lower the cost of public education through technology and a funding mechanism that resembles vouchers.

        Mike Flanagan, state superintendent of public instruction, said he was pulling a Department of Education employee off the work group on the same day Gov. Rick Snyder began distancing himself from the project started by his administration’s chief information officer, David Behen.

        Flanagan assigned education technology specialist Bruce Umpstead to work on the project at Behen’s request, but said he didn’t know the group had a controversial plan to develop a “value school” that delivers a lower-cost education at $5,000 per child annually.

        “Minimally, the perception is a problem,” Flanagan told The Detroit News. “If I could advise (Behen) … start over and try to assure transparency and try to assure that you’re doing the right thing. … If I were him, I’d reorganize it.”

        The News first reported Friday the education reform advisory team has been working on a months-long project it dubbed “skunk works.” Umpstead joined after Behen and three other state employees began using private emails to correspond on the project with software and technology companies and charter school advocates in the group.

        “In government work, we have to be overly worried about transparency,” Flanagan said after speaking here Monday at the 18th annual Governor’s Education Summit.

        Flanagan, who works directly for the State Board of Education, appeared in conflict over the issue with Snyder, who defended the concept of government employees working on an education reform project that, until Friday, was secret.

        “I don’t want to be in a position of saying people shouldn’t bring me ideas,” Snyder told reporters Monday.

        But Snyder tried to distance himself from the group’s work, saying “it’s not an official function of the government” and criticizing the emphasis on being a “skunk works” — a term used in the business world for secret projects unhampered by a bureaucracy.

        “Their choice of names wasn’t a good choice,” said Snyder, adding, “I haven’t been part of this process at all.”

        Government employees often use private email addresses to evade public records laws, but the practice is not illegal, said Jane Briggs-Bunting, president of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government.

        “There’s nothing in Michigan (law) that would prevent them using private email accounts,” said Briggs-Bunting, a media attorney.

        Democrats and school groups have criticized the Snyder administration about the group’s white paper that envisions a “Michigan Education Card” debit card for students to use for attending the “value school,” paying for Advanced Placement courses, music lessons, sports team fees, and remedial or cyber courses.

        Behen’s group is using private email addresses because it works best with a project management program the group is using for its “brainstorming,” said Kurt Weiss, spokesman for the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

        “So there is no plan to change that approach,” Weiss said in an email. “With people on the group from different walks of life, not just state government, it makes sense to use those tools.”

        Flanagan suggested Behen reorganize, but Weiss said the group will continue “to come up with new ideas for using technology to help educate our children.”

        The group will seek a replacement for Umpstead from the education community, Weiss said.

        Another educator, Paul Galbenski of Oakland Schools’ career and technical education program, has said he left the group after realizing it was “discussing a special kind of school being created outside of the Michigan public school system.”

        In an interview with The News last week, Behen acknowledged some of the volunteer group’s work has been conducted during normal business hours, though most meetings occur during evenings and on Saturdays at private businesses.

        Speaking before 650 educators and business leaders attending the conference, Flanagan acknowledged the “tension” in the room among educators about the emergence of the group’s documented goal to deliver education for $2,000 a year less than traditional school districts.

        Flanagan told educators he’s going to form his own group, dubbed “chipmunk works,” to help the state’s 2 million schoolchildren better navigate career choices — a central theme of the conference.

        Thom Houseman, a retired teacher, said The News’ revelation of the “skunk works” group’s development of a debit card overshadowed the governor’s intent to link talent with job providers.

        “It is a voucher. Call it a coupon,” Houseman said. “It’s a way around the Constitution.”

        Snyder said in opening remarks at the summit 60,000 job openings exist on the state’s employment website, mitalent.org, that would lower the state’s 8.5 percent jobless rate to 7 percent if they could all be filled.

        Snyder said a talented work force is Michigan’s “most precious asset,” but there are shortcomings in the state and national education systems.

        “We’ve built a system that doesn’t help people anymore in terms of helping people being successful,” Snyder said.

        “We need to do something different.”

        From The Detroit News:
        http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130423/SCHOOLS/304230341#ixzz2RIAjKgKz

      21. Redtail
        Posted April 23, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        Soulless, bloodsucking ghouls. Ending public education puts more dollars in their pockets, and it cuts down the amount of competition that their children will have to face.

      22. Maria
        Posted April 23, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        Snyder is the anti systems guy, unless of course, it’s his system. He doesn’t believe in systems, generally speaking, just the ones he likes,which include having a bunch of guys after hours coming up with plans he can actually hear and not get subpeoned on, at least initially.

      23. Brainless
        Posted April 24, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        Why the fuck are all of you blaming Snyder, you sniveling little shits? YOUR fellow citizens voted for this asshole and his cronies. Turn you goddamn heads away from the monitors and talk to THOSE assholes instead.

      24. Posted April 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        I’m just going to go out there and assume that’s the point of writing on a public blog.

      25. Edward
        Posted April 24, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        Our “fellow citizens”, by a huge margin, also voted against the Emergency Manager Act, Brainless. But, somehow, we’re still dealing with that. I feel justified in holding Snyder responsible. People may have voted for him, but he didn’t run on a platform of pushing through right to work legislation and ignoring the will of the voters.

      26. Posted April 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        I just saw something on FB about how to use Oreo cookies to teach about tectonic plates in the earth. More product placement that should make the governor jizz with glee!

      27. ypsijav
        Posted April 24, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        Snyder is a snake. He definitely campaigned on a very different platform than what we are seeing. Not that I ever supported him, but I think even a lot of conservatives and moderates are alarmed by some of these developments.

      28. Matt
        Posted April 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        Also interesting is that David Behen is a co-founder of InfoReady. Convenient??

      29. CVA
        Posted April 30, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        How much education do poor kids need to flip burgers? All we need is someplace to keep them off the streets until they can either enter the workforce or prison. School isn’t about education for the poor. It’s about warehousing.

      30. Knox
        Posted May 3, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        It looks like Snyder’s pledge to be transparent was bullshit. The Detroit News is finding evidence of even more secret committees.

        A growing number of unofficial committees are being created in state government to help craft policy, a development highlighted by the revelation nearly two weeks ago of secret meetings by a group focused on developing a low-cost charter school.

        Work groups or task forces in the capital city are not new. But some Lansing observers argue their use has increased under Gov. Rick Snyder, who has tried to introduce a business-like management to state government.

        In the last legislative session, there were publicly known work groups on juvenile sentencing, increasing transportation funding, oil and natural gas extraction policy and reforming Michigan’s medical marijuana law. Only the marijuana task force led to legal changes, including clarifications on rules for patients wanting to register to use pot and more restrictions on medical marijuana providers.

        The emergence of task forces working on state policy ideas has ignited a debate on whether they promote or damage democracy.

        “New ideas and work groups can be a good thing and an instrumental part of a healthy democracy,” said Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel. “These efforts are focused on providing better and more effective service to our customers, the 10 million residents of Michigan.”

        Critics counter that work groups are becoming increasingly used in this era of legislative and executive branch term limits to shield the public from governmental deliberations.

        Snyder’s Council on Law Enforcement and Reinvention recently received publicity after the Lansing newsletter Michigan Information & Research Service reported about the group’s study of possible consolidation of 911 call centers, despite the absence of emergency dispatchers on the 16-person panel.

        “I understand that sometimes you can get more things done if you don’t go through all of the cumbersome processes of democracy, but I think it’s really a disservice to the people,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing.

        Read more:
        http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130502/POLITICS02/305020312#ixzz2SEiv3hed

      31. Demetrius
        Posted May 5, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        Apparently, both Snyder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will visit Perry School here in Ypsilanti, tomorrow …

        http://annarbor.com/news/ypsilanti/education-secretary-arne-duncan-rick-snyder-to-visit-ypsilantis-perry-school/

      32. Mrs. Smith
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        So sad for all the hard-working, caring, competent Ypsi teachers that found out on Friday that they’d no longer have jobs.

        My thoughts are with you.

        Thank you for your years of service to our community.

      33. Eel
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

        Video of Snyder commenting on the Skunk Works.

        http://www.freep.com/article/20130422/NEWS15/304220110/

      34. anonymous
        Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        On Friday a huge number of Ypsi teachers found out that they wouldn’t have jobs next year. Adding insult to injury, Governor Rick Snyder then visited Perry Elementary with
        Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday. I’m surprised there wasn’t a riot.

        http://www.annarbor.com/news/ypsilanti/education-secretary-arne-duncan-rick-snyder-to-visit-ypsilantis-perry-school/

      35. Eel
        Posted May 10, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        If you haven’t seen it yet, watch this high school kid in Texas demanding to actually be taught, and not just handed dittos.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zAsTXtowZVQ

        If we had a kid like this in every class, we might actually be able to make some change.

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      1. [...] and make a difference in the world. (As much as Michigan Republicans would like it to be the case, on-line education isn’t sufficient by itself.) And, even with a teacher as creative and resourceful as Ms. [...]

      2. [...] to the Detroit News, our Governor’s secret education privatization task force, nicknamed the Skunk Works, was just the tip of the iceberg. Apparently, in spite of Snyder’s pledge to bring [...]

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