AP NEWS

A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

November 4, 2019 GMT

The Detroit News. Nov. 2, 2019

Scary Detroit scores make case for charters

Democratic presidential candidates can’t stop talking about how terrible charter schools are, yet the latest crop of national test scores from traditional public school students ought to make them all school choice converts.

That’s especially true when you look at how students are doing in Detroit, and many other large urban areas.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has worked hard to change the culture and implement a badly needed curriculum overhaul in vital subjects like reading and math, but change hasn’t been reflected in better scores yet.

For the sixth consecutive time, students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District have scored the worst in the country among 27 urban districts rated by the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ Trial Urban District Assessment. The NAEP test is given to a representative sample of students from around the country every two years.

More: NAEP: Detroit students improve in math; Michigan moves up in rankings

Since 2009, Detroit has posted some of the lowest scores ever recorded on the exam — and not by just a little.

While DPSCD officials are pointing to tepid progress, the truth remains that these schools are still doing a terrible job educating students.

For example, Detroit students scored a 183 in fourth-grade reading, 42 points less than the highest-scoring of the large urban districts, Miami-Dade. The national average for all students is 37 points higher than Detroit. To put those numbers in perspective, 10 points on the NAEP test is equivalent to a year’s worth of learning.

Since 2009, Detroit has posted some of the lowest scores ever recorded on the exam — and not by just a little.

While DPSCD officials are pointing to tepid progress, the truth remains that these schools are still doing a terrible job educating students.

For example, Detroit students scored a 183 in fourth-grade reading, 42 points less than the highest-scoring of the large urban districts, Miami-Dade. The national average for all students is 37 points higher than Detroit. To put those numbers in perspective, 10 points on the NAEP test is equivalent to a year’s worth of learning.

So that means Detroit students are four years behind their Miami counterparts, and more than three behind the nation. Similarly, in eighth grade reading, Detroit students lag top urban district performers by 37 points.

Math scores are equally gloomy.

But as anyone in the school reform world can tell you, successful turnarounds are extremely difficult to pull off — and they don’t happen overnight.

As Vitti works to reform his district, there are thousands of children who are missing out on their one chance for a good education.

Enter charter schools. These alternative public schools aren’t perfect. But in Detroit, families have been desperate for options.

That’s why charters have flourished in here, where about 46% of students attend them.

Students at charters are more likely to make gains in learning over their district peers, and more Detroit charter students graduate and enroll in college

Yet the attacks on charters keep on coming. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently cut $35 million from charter schools, and the State Board of Education has contemplated whether the state needs any more charter schools.

Democrats and unions like to argue that charters “take” money from public school classrooms. But as charter school researcher David Osborne and education policy analyst Emily Langhorne observe, cities like D.C. — which has a similarly robust charter sector — can see strong academic growth in both charter and traditional public schools.

In response to the national scores, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said: “This must be America’s wake-up call. We can neither excuse them away nor simply throw more money at the problem.”

DeVos, who recently visited a charter school in Detroit, is pushing for Congress to approve an education tax credit that would pave the way for more choices for families.

In the meantime, charters are the only alternative in Michigan. And students don’t have time to waste.

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Lansing State Journal Nov. 2, 2019

Years after Nassar, secrecy remains an issue at Michigan State

he abrupt resignation last week of MSU trustee Nancy Schlichting is yet another troubling sign for a campus and community eager for transparency and healing as it relates to the university’s handling of Larry Nassar and other sexual assault allegations.

Schlichting has a wealth of experience, including service to some 80 boards and having literally wrote the book. In her resignation from the MSU Board of Trustees, she cited the board’s lack of commitment to transparency.

Yes, the conversation is still about transparency - three years after the Nassar scandal broke; more than two years removed from former President Lou Anna Simon’s resignation; three months after new president Samuel Stanley took office.

Why is this still an issue?

n her resignation letter, Schlichting, who former Gov. Rick Snyder appointed in 2018 to replace retiring trustee George Perles, said, “It has become very clear to me that my commitment to have an independent review of the Nassar situation, and to waive privilege so the truth can come out, is not shared by the MSU board chair, legacy board members and some newer trustees.”

Simply put: The overarching culture at MSU has not changed. And it won’t change without changing the key players.

The LSJ Editorial Board alluded to it when calling for then-MSU President Lou Anna Simon’s resignation in 2017 and called on new MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr. to bear it in mind while assembling his administration in August of this year.

Now we’re saying it again: The culture won’t change with the same players in place.

Trustee Joel Ferguson has served on the board since 1987, trustee Dianne Byrum since 2009. Trustee Melanie Foster was elected in 2004 and again in 2014. They, according to Schlichting, are the ones leading the charge to block an independent review of 6,000 pages of documents related to sexual assault cases that are said to be protected by attorney-client privilege.

It raises the question: Who are these trustees - along with newcomer trustee Brianna Scott - trying to protect?

Certainly not the 505 known Nassar survivors. Certainly not the students and staff involved in over 1,100 sexual assault cases reported at MSU in the 2017-2018 academic year.

MSU has systemic problems that need to be addressed. In the light of day.

The Nassar scandal has forever tarnished MSU, costing the university its reputation and well over a half billion dollars. Refusing to lay the issue to rest with full disclosure and an independent investigation carries a price tag higher than any financial implications.

MSU’s trustees are unpaid representatives, elected statewide by the people to represent their interests. And that requires no-holds-barred transparency.

The resignation should cause Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to be precise in who she appoints to replace Schlichting, putting a commitment to transparency as a candidate’s No. 1 priority.

It should cause President Stanley to elevate the conversation about transparency and work with the trustees to do what’s right for the MSU community.

And it should definitely give the remaining trustees grave concerns about the direction in which they are headed.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. Nov. 2, 2019

Solar project flickers, but concept remains

A planned solar panel installation near Elk Rapids won’t be powering up anytime soon after village trustees learned it would require substantial upfront investment.

Elected officials early this summer were approached by a Grand Rapids-based company with the idea of developing a renewable energy project. The company thought it could leverage federal tax credits and attract a loan to fund installation, which would have allowed the village to break even on the deal in its first year of operation.

The rough concept looked promising, and elected Elk Rapids officials expressed interest. The company developed a plan that involved building a field of solar panels atop a retired landfill near the village’s wastewater treatment plant.

Potential investors, though, were not enthused by financial projections from the relatively small scale of the project. They said “no thanks.”

A revised proposal from the company — without that investment group loan — didn’t look nearly so attractive. Village trustees chose not to pursue that offer.

It’s sad the project went dim, but the trustees made the right financial decision.

Renewable energy can be a great tool for helping save the environment.

But governments must use tax dollars wisely. Trustees decided that the revised offer wouldn’t be fiscally responsible.

Clean energy works only if the people paying the bills can afford it. Renewable energy depends on renewable funding.

This particular project went dark, but Elk Rapids officials plan to move forward with renewable energy.

“It’s a real point of pride the community looks at this sort of thing,” said Royce Ragland, chairwoman of both the Green Elk Rapids organization and the village’s planning commission.

“We are not giving up on the concept,” said Village Manager William Cooper.

More power to them, we say.

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