ACLU Objects to Closed Meeting (and I question the ideological diversity) of Gibbons’ Education Task Force

You may or may not have heard that the ACLU objected to the Governor’s education task force meeting in private last week (that was the Friday meeting at the Wynn to which I earlier referred here).

The governor’s office disagrees with the ACLU due in part to this AG opinion last week (Hat Tip: Ralston):

I have reviewed the Governor’s Executive Order creating the Blue Ribbon Task Force to advise him on budget issues for the next biennium and to facilitate the application for federal funding pursuant to Race to the Top.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force, as described in the Executive Order, is not a public body subject to the OML. It will be appointed by the Governor (the Governor is not an entity subject to the OML: see §3.02, OML Manual) and secondly, the BRTF will make recommendations only to the Governor. (see §3.04, OML Manual) Committee is subject to OML where parent is a public body and it appoints a committee who is tasked to make recommendations to parent. Such is not the case here.

George H. Taylor

Senior Deputy Attorney General

My question is this:  Why not open the meetings up regardless of the legalities?  What possible reason could there be for keeping these meetings closed?  If the purpose of the panel is to (1) help the state figure out how to competently process its way through the Race to the Top application and (2) come up with ideas to reform our sorry educational system, why can’t the public sit in?

I have other questions, too, some of which the governor’s spokesperson, Dan Burns, answered last week (but not really to my satisfaction, as follows):

Burns said panel members were chosen from “every segment of society” and “every walk of life” and that the panel is not “a political group” but a place for “fresh ideas” that will “make educational reform recommendations to the governor.” I’d really love to believe that – but if new ideas are really what they are after, why is there so little diversity of background and ideology on the panel?

I see one known empowerment school and one charter school advocate, one guy who believes in Florida-style reform (if you did not know it, Florida is kicking all the other states’ butts when it comes to measured improvements over the past decade) and one conservative senator who in the past has spoken in favor of choice via vouchers/scholarships and charter schools (but doesn’t support empowerment).

Why are there no panel members from the Business Educational Alliance for the Children of Nevada (BEACON), NPRI, the Nevada Innovative Coalition for Education (NICE), the Council for a Better Nevada, any of the state’s private schools or anyone repesenting the home-schooling peeps?  We couldn’t even pick 2 or 3 panelists with ties to these groups?

Yet:  we do have a higher ed guy, the superintendent of Nevada’s public schools, the head of Nye County’s public schools, the head of Washoe County’s public schools, the head of Douglas County’s public schools, a former university regent and teachers union endorsed candidate for CD-2 in the last two election cycles, a public school teacher from Clark County, a Washoe County public school teacher, a public school teacher from Lyon County, a Clark County public school principal, the president of the Nevada PTA, and the head of the Nevada teachers union.

Does that list look like people from “every segment of society” and “every walk of life” to you?  I’m not saying there should be NO representation from the public school system, but the ratio looks pretty lopsided.  So, color me skeptical on the whole “fresh ideas” thing.