News Story

Wall Street Journal covers Mackinac Center FOIA case

Transparency and access to public records is at stake

Members of The Wall Street Journal editorial board were left scratching their heads over a recent ruling from an Oakland County circuit court judge about Michigan’s public transparency law.

Carol Beth Litkouhi, a parent of a Rochester Community Schools student, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the district, asking for curriculum from a course on ethnic and gender studies.

The school refused to divulge the information, arguing in court that teachers are not subject to FOIA requirements.

Oakland County Judge Jacob Cunningham ruled against Litkouhi, who is represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.

Cunningham agreed with the school district, writing that “a review of the court file, pleadings, briefs and evidence offered show RCSD has not prepared, owned, used, possessed or retained the documents requested” (bold in original).

The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes:

The school district’s goal here is to prevent parents from questioning what is taught. But public schools should be held to the same transparency standards as other public employees. Their work is funded by taxpayers and they are accountable to taxpayers and parents. Teachers’ salaries are publicly available, so why would their work product be different? The Mackinac Center is appealing the ruling.

Transparency from public officials is a core principle of democratic self-government. Educators know that schools thrive in communities where parents care about education and volunteer their time to help schools. The Rochester obstruction is an insult to the parents and taxpayers who pay their salaries.

Steve Delie, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, agrees with the Journal’s analysis.

“The Journal’s editorial board correctly recognizes the core issue of this ruling: the determination that any materials not possessed by a public entity itself, but rather created and used by their employees, are not subject to open records laws,” Delie told CapCon.

“Should this ruling stand,” Delie added, “it will be significantly more difficult for interested citizens or journalists to obtain the information needed to hold government accountable. We intend to appeal this ruling, as it significantly weakens transparency in Michigan.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.