LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Michigan’s public education chief says he will oversee a public work group aimed at developing ways to better integrate technology into the education system after the state came under fire for participating in backroom discussions on lower-cost education models.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder asked Superintendent Mike Flanagan to head the new, open effort, which will discuss some of the ideas of a private work group that was reported about last week. Citing minutes and reports, The Detroit News said a work group, which included Snyder’s Chief Information Officer David Behen, had been meeting behind closed doors to develop a lower-cost model for K-12 education using a funding mechanism that resembles vouchers.

Documents say the aim is to create a “value school” that costs $5,000 per child to every year to run. There were also discussions about using fewer teachers and increasing instruction by using long-distance video conferencing. The group called itself “skunk works” a term originally used by Lockheed Martin in WWII to secretly create fighter planes.

Flanagan said Wednesday in a statement that the new group won’t discuss school vouchers, but will focus on adapting the state’s education system to reflect changes in technology and brainstorm how savings can be put back into the schools.

Snyder told reporters Monday that he has not been involved in the private work group. During a town hall meeting Tuesday night, he said he likes some of the ideas developed by the group.

“Isn’t it a good idea to say `Can we use technology to improve performance in the classroom that could make us more efficient, could save dollars, that then we could reinvest more right in the classroom?’ I think that’s pretty cool.”

Members of the State Board of Education, school business officials and early childhood education stakeholders will be among those invited to participate in the newly formed work group. It will also be open the public.

The decision to bring the discussion into the open was lauded by the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

“We applaud the Governor’s leadership and Mike Flanagan’s guidance in bringing back-room discussions on technology-enriched learning into the light of day,” William Mayes, executive director of the group said in a statement. “School administrators welcome an invitation to a seat at the table where critical discussions take place,” he said.

MORE: Report Says Work Group Developing Low-Cost Schools

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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