Snyder Denies Involvement in 'Skunk Works' Group, Stresses Reform

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder began his remarks at the annual Governor's Education Summit on Monday by declaring that the educational system in the state is "broken," as quoted by the Detroit Free Press and other media outlets. He went on to say that "the world is much more demanding in terms of specifying what you need to get a position," and that Michigan has "built a system that doesn't work anymore in terms of helping people be successful."

Snyder carefully avoided making any mention of the so-called "skunk works" group that is reportedly working on public education reforms which revisit aspects of previously introduced school voucher proposals. The team, which includes one of the governor's top aides, Chief Information Officer David Behen, is also looking at the possibility of opening "value schools," as first revealed by the Detroit News last week.

Here is some of the key information to emerge on Monday regarding Snyder's remarks to the summit's attendees, and the controversy over the "skunk works" group.

* The "skunk works" label was self-applied by the group's members, according to the Detroit News. The "value school" system that they are reportedly working on would be a charter school system that would seek to cut the costs of teaching students by issuing a "Michigan Education Card," or "Educard," that was worth a certain amount of money.

* Students could then theoretically pay for their basic education using the card. The group's minutes state that extra money left on the card would be used for advanced placement courses, instruction in the arts, or sports.

* Snyder has previously acknowledged that he was aware of the group's activities, but has denied any direct involvement in what they're developing. He repeated that denial on Monday after his remarks, telling reporters that "it's not an official project I have going," and that "I haven't been part of this process at all," as quoted by MLive.

* State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan sharply criticized the project on Monday, and urged state officials involved to "start over" on school reform and "reorganize," as quoted by the Detroit News.

* Snyder spent much of his remarks on Monday discussing the link between business and education, pointing out that there are 60,000 jobs listed in Michigan that remain unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates.

* Snyder is advocating improving communication and cooperation between businesses and educators to fine-tune the skills that Michigan graduates leave school with, to resemble more closely what is needed in the marketplace, or to "connect the two worlds of supply and demand," as quoted by MLive.

* The 2013 Governor's Education Summit is also expected to feature discussions on a wide range of other topics, including educator effectiveness and early childhood education.

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in politics and public issues.

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