Letters: Other views on WSU board, charter schools

The Detroit News
President of Wayne State University Roy Wilson March 20, 2019.

Intervention needed at WSU

Re: The Detroit News' Nov 10 editorial, "WSU board standoff demands intervention": As one of the four Wayne State University board members who voted to fire former WSU President M. Roy Wilson, let me shock the world by saying that I agree with the call for intervention. If I and my three colleagues who voted for Wilson’s firing deserve to be impeached, then let’s intervene.

We are two prominent attorneys and two WSU trained surgeons of black, Hispanic, Indian and Sicilian heritage. We serve without compensation and have incurred over $50,000 in personal legal bills protecting our constituents while being denied the luxury of WSU dollars afforded to those who we believe are abusing the people’s money and assets.  

Under the Wilson administration, we have seen a total disregard for the Constitution of Michigan, the WSU bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order. We have seen public monies used for bullying, intimidation and buying of influence.  

As a board member, I have to file FOIA requests to get my own information, and even then, what I receive is incomplete. I have never dealt with such lack of transparency.

I respectfully request of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that she spend her time fixing the budget and the roads. I do ask that she intervene by demanding a forensic audit, a federal investigation and a legislative oversight committee hearing to ensure that this does not happen again.

Michael J. Busuito, M.D.

WSU Board of Governors

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools visits the students at Edmonson Elementary school on September 3, 2019, Detroit, Mi.

Charter schools aren't a silver bullet

Re: "Editorial: Scary Detroit scores make case for charters," Nov. 3: On “the nation’s report card” this year, Detroit scored the lowest among major urban districts. In response, The Detroit News editorial board wrote that the results “make [the] case for charters.” Their argument dangerously ignores the fact that concentrated poverty and racial segregation are at the root of educational inequities in Detroit. All of us who share the editorial board’s urgency need to resist their narrow thinking about what is possible and what will be required to provide Detroit students with an excellent and equitable school system.

The editorial board plays into a misleading characterization of a coherent charter school “sector.” Charters vary in lots of ways: based on who manages or authorizes them, where they are located, for-profit or non-profit, stand-alone or in a network, “neighborhood” or “commuter." Charters are not one common entity, and they certainly don’t all have the same outcomes.

The editorial board also implied cause and effect: If Detroit students go to charter schools, they will have better educational outcomes. But most studies cannot say charters “cause” certain outcomes. “Lottery studies,” where researchers can match students who were selected in over-subscribed charters to students who weren’t, are generally accepted as the “gold standard” for making cause-and-effect claims about charter schools. We’re aware of only one lottery study involving Michigan schools, which analyzed students in National Heritage Academy charters. The bottom line: NHA schools did not cause poor students living in cities to score better on average than their counterparts.

The premise of contemporary American education reform has been that we can solve major social issues associated with poverty and inequality through schools because education is the key to a person's economic prosperity. Helping every student develop intellectually and socio-emotionally is good for them as individuals and for us as a nation.The problem, however, is that schools have been made fully responsible for that goal while student development is the result of a constellation of factors — many outside of a school’s control. In fact, researchers agree that schools only affect 20-30% of student test scores on average.

Arguments for “silver bullet” school reforms distract us from addressing the root of educational problems for all Detroit students: poverty, segregation, and a history of compounding inequality.

Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, assistant professor, educational leadership and policy studies, Wayne State University

Jeremy Singer, doctoral student, WSU