But Chad Livengood* of the Detroit News reported on April 19, 2013 that
A secret work group that includes top aides to Gov. Rick Snyder has been meeting since December to develop a lower-cost model for K-12 public education with a funding mechanism that resembles school vouchers.The news article goes on to say that
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 group had one educator, Paul Galbenski, an Oakland Schools business teacher and Michigan's 2011 Educator of the Year, but he left the group.That's right, just because it's "easier," Michigan's Chief Information Officer is using private email addresses to correspond on circumventing our state constitution. [The Michigan Constitution says public monies can't be directed toward private schools.]
"It really kind of looked like for me that they were discussing a special kind of school being created outside of the Michigan public school system," Galbenski said. "That's when I started questioning my involvement."
Records show the group has strived to remain secretive, even adopting the "skunk works" alias, which dates to defense contractor Lockheed Martin's secret development of fighter planes during World War II.
In January, participants were instructed in a memo to use "alternative" email accounts. Records show Behen [Ed. Note: David Behen, Snyder's Chief Information Officer**], Davenport and two other Department of Technology, Management and Budget employees have since used private email addresses to correspond. (Emphasis added.)
Behen said he and the other four state employees are mostly working after-hours on the project with Friday evening and Saturday meetings.Isn't weekend work standard for cabinet-level employees in government?
"Why are we using private email addresses? Because it's just easier," Behen said. "There's nothing secret or anything about this."I don't know much about the reference to the "skunk works" referred to in terms of Lockheed Martin and WWII fighter planes, but I do know something about some of the other definitions of skunk, the definitions of skunk as a verb. To wit, from the Fourth Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (referenced at wordnik.com) :
McLellan [Ed. note: secretary of the Mackinac Center's Board of Directors and author of the Oxford Plan] said the other participants are justified in using private emails.*** "Well, they should," he said. "It's not a government project." "Isn't a skunk works by definition unorganized, backroom?" he asked rhetorically.
In other words, members of this secret group--and by extension, the top levels of Michigan's government--are hoping to skunk us [and let's be clear--by us I mean supporters of public education, education of the people, by the people, and for the people].
They are hoping to skunk us, by defeating us overwhelmingly and keeping us from being proactive.
They are hoping to skunk us, by cheating us out of funds due to public education.
They are hoping to skunk us, by failing to pay public schools their due.
|Taken from the Missouri Dept. of Conservation web site.|
And in a way, they have already halfway succeeded, cutting out $1.8 billion in school aid funds since Governor Snyder came to office, and making all school districts across the state feel extremely pinched, budget-wise.
So I do feel that this group is giving skunks a really bad name. After all, when does a skunk release that malodorous vapor? When they feel threatened. They do that to keep predators from attacking, not to harm others.
The "skunk works" people? They are more akin to demons than skunks.
*Kudos to Chad Livengood for some excellent investigative reporting.
**David Behen used to be Washtenaw County Deputy Administrator.
***And I'm really hoping somebody will be putting in FOIA requests for all these private emails that members of Governor Snyder's staff are using for public activity.