Read statements regarding the filing of an open meetings lawsuit against the R.I. Board of Education over its plans later this month to meet in a private retreat, closed to the public and the media, in order to hear from invited “experts” on the issue of its “high stakes testing” requirement for high school seniors:
ACLU attorney Miriam Weizenbaum: “High stakes testing has generated an important public discussion. The Board has an obligation to keep that discussion in the public sphere. And it's not just a good idea, it's the law. That is why we are petitioning the Court to hold the Rhode Island Board of Education accountable to the Open Meetings Act.
ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown: “It is astonishing that such an important public body would decide to hear in complete secrecy testimony that may be used by its members to make one of the most important decisions in the Board’s short existence. There is no compelling rationale whatsoever for this issue to be discussed in private. In fact, it completely undermines the whole point of the open meetings law.”
Plaintiff Christine Egan: “As a parent of a student in the public school system, it is extremely discouraging to think that our state's Board of Education is endeavoring to review information, hold discussions and/or make decisions that critically affect our children's future without the input of the public and the students themselves. The open meeting laws are intended to ensure fairness and opportunity to be heard. How can the RI Department of Education even pretend to be dedicated to moving our educational systems forward without the input and careful considerations of the concerns of the public? The RIDE website declares that our state will create and support great schools and programs by working with communities, families, civic leaders, and all educators so that Rhode Island leads the way in public education. Apparently the Board of Education has decided that is does not need to adhere to its own stated mission and methods at this time.”
Plaintiff Edward Benson: “I have been testifying at the state house against high-stakes testing over the last two years. Now that the issue is finally coming to a head, the Board of Education is trying to deliberate and reach a decision in secret. The board should be reaching out as widely and publicly as it can for more information.”
Plaintiff Rick Richards: “The Board of Education's tendency to treat public policy issues administratively, making important decisions without open discussion or meaningful public input, is unfortunately of a piece with the Department of Education's way of going about business. Taken together, they present formidable obstacles to keeping the ‘public’ in public education. This lawsuit is intended to reintroduce a public voice into an area of policy that concerns every student, family, and citizen in this state.”