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Dept. of Education requires volunteer advisors to sign confidentiality deal

By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network

LANSING, MI – Some people in the education community are upset over a no-complaint pledge the state requires from people who serve on some volunteer advisory panels. The Michigan Department of Education says the form is meant to encourage groups to reach consensus on complicated issues such as school accreditation. But some critics say the pledge is meant to stifle dissent on education questions.


The pledge says once a consensus is reached by an advisory group, its members will support it - even the parts of a compromise deal they disagree with.
Kristina Quo with the government watchdog Common Cause says the pledge could undermine confidence in the recommendations.

"If it's a political decision - not based on good public policy -- than this could be totally abused," Quo says.

State education superintendent Michael Flanagan says there have been too many cases of advisory groups reaching a compromise that is then torpedoed by individual members who lobby against it when recommendations go to the Legislature.

"If they don't have consensus, they are certainly not bound by any agreement, but if they do have consensus, we expect good faith," Flanagan says.

Flanagan says the pledge is not meant to keep education experts from speaking out when they disagree with a decision.

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