Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office has provided some clarification on the openness of the upcoming meetings of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students (BluRTFTS).
- As reported here last week, the meetings in Chamberlain, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Yankton, Watertown, and Aberdeen will consist of three sessions: one for educators, one for businessfolks, and one for the general public.
- The general public meetings will be open to anyone; however, the Governor’s office asks that media “not record the entire event or attribute statements by any attendee without permission.” The intent here is to allow attendees to “feel free to openly share their thoughts.”
- Any educator is welcome to participate in the educators meetings.
- Any businessperson is welcome to participate in the businesspeople’s meetings.
- Neither of those two sector-specific meetings are “invitation only.”
- Neither of those two sector-specific meetings will include the media.
- Task force members may be available for media interviews between meetings. However, “Not all task force members will be present at these meetings, however, and a report of the findings from the public meetings will be shared with the entire task force once all the meetings are complete.”
I have multiple concerns:
- If a meeting is open to the public, and any participant’s remarks can be heard by anyone in attendance, can any speaker enjoy any expectation of privacy or anonymity? In a truly public forum, media should be free to report exactly what happens.
- What observations on public policy could educators, businesspeople, or the general public have that should not be accorded full public scrutiny and accountability?
- If task force members do not attend all meetings, and if a detailed public record of those meetings is not maintained, how can we be sure all task force members are presented with and form policy upon all relevant information presented?
Even with these concerns, I will be happy to attend both the educator session and the public meeting in Aberdeen on June 23. If I’m feeling ambitious (and don’t need the extra two hours to gather last-week referendum signatures), I may even press for admission to the business meeting. After all, I sell ads! I’m a businessman!