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In Detroit, a rare public appearance from one of Gov. Snyder's chief education advisors

One of Gov. Snyder’s top education advisors made a rare public appearance at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s yearly Detroit Policy Conference Thursday.

Paul Pastorek has been working behind the scenes in Lansing for months.

According to the Governor’s office, he’s an “at-will consultant" helping design a major overhaul for Detroit’s struggling, fragmented education system.

Pastorek is best-known as the former Louisiana superintendent of schools, where he was largely responsible for completely reorganizing New Orleans schools in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

That overhaul dismantled the city’s traditional public school system, largely replacing it with a system of loosely-coordinated independent charters. Many observers expect him to suggest a very similar model for Detroit.

Pastorek pointed to major gains in academic achievement in New Orleans schools since then, though some education experts have recently questioned the data behind those claims.

Pastorek said he’s “encouraged” by what he sees as the current consensus across the political spectrum that Detroit’s whole school environment needs a major, coordinated overhaul.

Pastored described that current  environment as “chaotic,” and also suggested it’s naïve to think doubling down on more of a “free market” school system will help.

“But likewise, thinking that a monopolistic bureaucracy is delivering real choice for parents is also wishful thinking,” he said, adding that recent history makes clear neither the city nor the state alone can produce meaningful education reform in Detroit.

Pastorek is expected to present his suggestions to Gov. Snyder sometime this spring, and Gov. Snyder has said he intends to act on those and other recommendations soon after.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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