Education finance is an important issue around the country, but it can be hard to manage for a number of reasons. Maine recently established a new commission to address the issue, but they’ve gotten off to a pretty rough start. The commission held it’s first meeting in private, which violated standing laws in Maine that require those meetings to be accessible to the public. The Attorney General immediately filed a complaint, which will go to court in September. The commission subsequently voted to pay any fines assigned by the court, had a slight change of membership, and then held it’s next meeting according to the guidelines of state law.
The initial meeting was apparently intended for the commission to break the ice, but that isn’t an acceptable excuse for closing it off to the public. It may not seem like the biggest problem facing education, but the idea of such a commission meeting in private, and not allowing the public to monitor how such important discussions are going, is a chilling one. Though the commission doesn’t seem to have had any nefarious intent, it could have set a negative precedent. As the commission will be dealing with public education, the public needs to be kept abreast of its progress.
It is especially important that educators have access to such meetings, in order to express their own concerns and ideas. While parents and other citizens can certainly have good suggestions, and should be aware of things that affect their children, educators are all too often ignored or left out of significant decisions about the direction of education policy or finance. Maine has taken the right steps to ensure that this commission operates with transparency, and that it is capable of tapping the valuable resources that the public can provide.