Opinion
10:08 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Michigan is a state of few opportunities for exercise at school

Credit Tamar Charney

I crossed and uncrossed my legs for the tenth time in a minute. I bounced my foot. I even stood at the back of the room. I was fidgety, foggy brained, completely fatigued, and there were still hours to go until we were finished.

After 40-some odd trips around the sun, I should know I can't skip my morning workout and still expect to function well in a daylong meeting.

As the meeting droned on, and my fidgeting got worse and worse, my thoughts snapped back to a conversation I had with a school-aged boy I know.

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Families & Community
7:35 am
Fri September 26, 2014

ICYMI: Take care of your lead paint now; Michigan child care is a mess; lowering the bar for boys

Credit Dustin Dwyer

We're coming up on October and you'll be forgiven if not only autumn, but State of Opportunity content, has been flying past you.

That's what we're here for. 

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Policy
9:53 am
Thu September 25, 2014

Michigan child care options pushing low-income families out

Childcare funding for low-income parents has declined over the past few years.
Credit Michigan League of Public Policy

Child care is an absolute necessity for working families -- and their employers. Nearly two-thirds of preschool age children in the U.S. live in homes where both caregivers work. So healthy and reasonably priced child care is essential for parents. 

What happens when affordable, high-quality child care isn't an option?

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Health
6:30 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Getting the word out about Get the Lead Out

Viv Jaunais works to remove any lead risks from a home in Grand Rapids.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Organizers of the Get the Lead Out program in Grand Rapids are trying right now to get the word out for people to apply for assistance with lead removal in their homes.

As we’ve reported before on State of Opportunity, lead is one of the most dangerous chemicals in the environment affecting young children.

In Grand Rapids, the funds for lead removal may soon dry up. And the push is on to fix as many homes as possible before that happens.

I walk up the driveway next to a yellow house on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. Next door, a dog barks. At the yellow house, a man stands on a ladder, cutting away some vinyl trim. His work area is marked off with an ominous stretch of red tape. The dog and I are on the other side of it.

"Am I allowed to come on this side?" I ask.

"No, you’re not," the man says.

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Policy
3:31 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Pay now or pay later? The State of Opportunity story

Credit user DarkGuru / creative commons

Pay now or pay later? I feel like that could be the unofficial tag line for our State of Opportunity project.  

The "pay now or pay later" question comes up time and again when we talk about programs aimed at helping kids climb out of poverty. For example: Do we spend the money up front for high-quality preschool for low-income kids, or do we wait until they're falling behind to try and step in to help? Do we offer preventive medical care for low-income kids, or do we wait to treat them until they've developed asthma or heart disease later in life?  

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Education
3:10 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

One popular strategy to help boys succeed in school: Just expect less from them

A future underachiever?
Credit Dustin Dwyer

If you follow our work here on State of Opportunity, it will not be news to hear that girls currently outperform boys on most academic measures

A piece published a few days ago over at The Atlantic points out that this isn't just an American phenomenon; girls are doing better than boys in schools all around the world. This disparity has immense consequences for our education system, in part because, as I reported last year in our documentary "Be A Man," gender acts as a multiplying factor for other types of educational achievement gaps. The gaps we see between students based on family income and race are both much worse for males than females. If we want to tackle these achievement gaps, we can't ignore gender. 

So how can we help boys catch up to girls in school? One idea that seems to have a lot of traction lately is just to let boys get away with doing less. 
 

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Infowire
7:28 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Infowire: There is lots of red tape around prison visits. Here's how to untangle it.

Credit Free Press / flickr

The goal of Infowire is to deliver information that’s hard to come by to the people who could use it most. In this case, it's families of prisoners.

There’s a long list of serious issues in prison that people would not stand for if they were happening somewhere else. In this context, visits might not seem like the most important thing, but they are crucial.

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Families & Community
6:00 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Many Michigan cities are reporting a drop in homicides so far this year. Can the trend last?

Credit flickr/diversey

The numbers are down 30% in Flint.

They were down 70% in Saginaw through July. Down 66% in Grand Rapids through June. Down 14% in Detroit, and on pace for the lowest annual total in decades.

The reports are preliminary, but homicides in many of Michigan’s cities are way down compared to last year.

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4:05 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

U.S. Census data show child poverty rate is on the decline

Lead in text: 
New U.S. Census Bureau data show a decline in childhood poverty rates for the first time in 10 years. That's big news. But as Emily Badger points out in her Washington Post article, that's about the only good news coming out of the most recent poverty data gleaned from the Bureau's 2013 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.
The Census Bureau released new poverty and income data on Tuesday morning, drawing on results from the 2013 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplements. The data is used to calculate the official poverty rate in the U.S., as well as to track how changes in the economy - such as in the employment prospects of workers - impact the incomes of American households, and the differences between them.
Families & Community
11:58 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Michigan gets an "F" in consumer debt protection

Credit National Consumer Law Center

Michigan law allows up to 25 percent of a workers paycheck to be garnished for credit card debt. It's one of 20 states that do not protect wages above the federal minimum of 75 percent of take-home pay once a person has judgment for non-payment of debt against them.

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