Snyder and Duncan shadowed by Progress Michigan’s ‘Pepe Le Voucher’

Progress Michigan’s “Pepé Le Voucher” stands with MEA member Rochelle Noel, a school counselor in Livonia Public Schools, at an event Monday in Ypsilanti to protest Gov. Rick Snyder’ secret “skunk works” voucher group.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Michigan on Monday to participate in several media events with Gov. Rick Snyder to promote the governor’s Education Achievement Authority experiment.

Along the way, Duncan and Snyder were greeted by an unexpected guest: “Pepé Le Voucher,” a new mascot developed by watchdog group Progress Michigan that serves to shed light on Snyder’s secret “skunk works” school voucher workgroup. The mascot was accompanied by numerous local school employees and education activists at both stops, in Detroit and Ypsilanti.

For months, Snyder’s skunk works group was meeting behind closed doors “to develop a cheaper way to deliver public education through a voucher-like funding system,” the Detroit News reported.

The until recently secret group, which included Mackinac Center official Richard McLellan and Snyder staff members, has been almost universally panned by the education community. Despite all of the criticism, a tone-deaf Snyder has said skunk works’ ideas were “pretty cool” and suggested, “Why don't we make that more official?”

After the secret project was revealed, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced he was taking over the project and would aim to make it more transparent.

"I think it was very sketchy, and I think it's very unfortunate they had this secret workgroup,” Progress Michigan’s Jessica Tramontana told Fox 2 Detroit outside of one of Monday’s protests while standing alongside Pepé. “I'm really glad that group was exposed, and I really hope that the state superintendent continues to be transparent and accountable.”

Despite those promises of more transparency, Pepé and Tramontana were sadly escorted out of a community forum and off school property at Brenda Scott Academy of Theatre Arts, an EAA school in Detroit.