flickr, from 401calulator.org

The Atlantic is hosting its annual Summit on the Economy today in Washington D.C. You can follow the live webcast here, or in the embedded video below. 

You've already missed former Treasure Secretary Larry Summers and current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, but you can catch some of what they said by following #AtlanticEcon on Twitter. 

Here's some highlights so far: 

mootje mootje / flickr

The advocacy group Children's Rights sued the state of Michigan over its foster care system more than eight years ago because of the number of kids who were left with abusive families, or harmed once they got into foster care.

flickr/bradadozier

Last week, a child showed up at the MidMichigan Health Medical Center in Clare with a suspicious set of symptoms. The child’s visit led to a phone call. That phone call led to an arrest.

Police told a local TV news station the child’s dad had been cooking methamphetamine inside the home. Yesterday, I reported that a record number of children were exposed to meth production last year in Michigan. The Clare case shows the problem hasn’t stopped this year, either.

When I was reporting the story, I called a doctor at the health center where the child showed up last week. Dr. Abid Khan isn’t the one who saw the child. But he is an expert on addiction. He runs a clinic at the center, and meets with addicts regularly.

He told me the way addiction is treated today is all wrong.

Hogan / flickr

"Up by your bootstraps," that ubiquitous phrase that has come to function basically as shorthand for the American Dream, first came onto the scene in 1834.  

Linguist Anne Curzan says at that point, it was basically an insult. It described somebody delusional enough to think they could defy the laws of physics and pull themselves up in the air by the very things anchoring them to the ground. 

You see it on your local TV news every few weeks. Or maybe a small article in the paper.

Another fire. Another bust. Another story about meth.

The statistics tell the rest of the story: Methamphetamine use and production is on the rise in Michigan.

And last year, more children were exposed to meth labs than at any time since the state started keeping track.

Michigan Radio

We'd like to thank all of the State of Opportunity and Michigan Radio fans who came out to our first Day of Opportunity

About 76 people volunteered, including Michigan Radio staff from State of Opportunity, our newsroom, and Stateside with Cynthia Canty. We were pleased to welcome volunteers of all ages. 

Volunteers helped three local organizations with a range of tasks, including gardening, weeding, sorting canned goods, stocking shelves, and getting very good with operating a conveyor belt. 

Camera Eye Photography / Flickr

It’s not easy for us to think about homeless kids, so many of us don’t. But we should. The Homestretch, a new documentary you can watch on PBS Detroit Monday, April 13th at 10pm or online, is an easy way into this topic.

The Homestretch will shatter your expectations about being young and homeless. It follows three homeless teens in Chicago that you can’t help but root for even though they’re not typical poster children: Roque, Anthony, and Kasey.

LBJ Library photo by Frank Wolfe

Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson sat down at a table in Texas to sign one of the most important pieces of education legislation in the history of the U.S. You may never have heard of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by name, but it undoubtedly affected your life.

Like most pieces of landmark legislation, the ESEA had many components, and those components have been amended over time. But at its heart, the ESEA was about using the power (and the purse) of the federal government to create more equity among the nation's schools. Johnson conceived it as part of his War on Poverty. It also became a key milestone in the civil rights movement. 

Johnson signed the law outside a schoolhouse where he had been a student. In his remarks that day, he did not mince words about what he hoped the law could achieve:

As the son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is only valid in its passport from poverty, the only valid passport. As a former teacher – and I hope a future one – I have great expectations of what this law will mean for all our young people. As president of the United States, I believe deeply no law I have signed or will ever sign means more to the future of America.

And if you've never heard of the ESEA by name, you might know it by the name it was given in 2002, during its most recent reauthorization: The No Child Left Behind Act. 

user alamosbasement / flickr

America is becoming less equal.

That much is now widely acknowledged.

But what can be done to improve things for the next generation?

We’ve been doing this work on State of Opportunity for nearly three years now. If there’s one thing I’ve heard over and over about how to help kids get ahead, it’s this: Education is the key.

"Once you’ve made it to college and graduated, your social mobility opportunities are great," said Fabian Pfeffer.

"Putting people into more post-secondary education would strongly promote their mobility," said Erin Currier.

"We’re talking about producing skills," said James Heckman. "Skills are the core of the modern economy."

If you want a good job, you have to have skills. If you want skills, you have to have education. That’s pretty uncontroversial.

But then I came across the work of this guy:

Hogan / flickr

If there is one phrase you hear ad nauseam as a reporter who covers poverty, it is definitely some variant of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." 

Of course it's used as part of the origin story to explain how any number of families from humble beginnings now experience success several generations later. (If it was possible to search facebook comments on State of Opportunity stories by the keyword "bootstraps" the stress would surely cause my laptop to shake and smoke from its USB ports.) 

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State of Opportunity Listening Session

State of Opportunity Listening Session - April 23, Ann Arbor

Join Jennifer White for this discussion on bridging the poverty divide