Families & Community
12:06 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Crime in Flint is down, but violence is still taking a big toll on young people

Officer Jesse Carpenter, left, and staff of the Haskell Youth Center in Flint.
Credit Haskell Center

The Haskell Youth Center is on the front lines of violence prevention in Flint. They don’t use a complicated formula; there are just plenty of positive activities and positive adults.

On any given day there are about 200 kids spread throughout the game room, the cafeteria, and a gym where the basketball games never seem to stop. 

Haskell is a refuge of sorts. Violent crime is pervasive in this city, with almost 800 such crimes reported since the beginning of the year. That’s pretty extreme. But just as true outside of Flint is the effect violence can have on young people.

"It feels like a storm that's always around – that won't go away," says 18-year-old Rico Colfer. He's been coming to Haskell since he was nine years old. He now works at the center when he's not in school, studying for what he hopes will be a career in graphic design. 

Colfer says his house has been broken into three times. He says the stress takes a toll on him and on those around him. "Every time it happens it hurts me because I see my mom cry," he says. "She works hard to get us the best stuff to have, and they just come and take it."

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Education
1:27 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Do Michigan's charter school rules need big changes, or just more tweaks?

Credit KT KING (flickr.com/xtrah)

What will it take to fix Michigan's charter school laws?   

The rules governing charter schools in Michigan were first put into place a little over two decades ago. Since then, there have been revisions – the biggest of which happened a few years ago when the state lifted the cap on the number of charter schools that can open in Michigan

But after the Detroit Free Press published a blistering investigation into the state's charter schools, the law may be headed for more revisions. 

And some are starting to make the case for a complete overhaul – not just of charters, but of Michigan's entire education system. 

"Let's start over," says Dan Varner, head of Excellent Schools Detroit, and a member of the state Board of Education. "I think it’s time for a complete reset of the way we deliver public education in Michigan."

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Policy
7:42 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Paul Ryan signals change in tone on poverty. Skeptics raise collective eyebrow.

Credit commondreams.org

Paul Ryan is arguably the Republican Party's most amplified voice on poverty. He talks about it often in his role as chairman of the House Budget Committee and spoke famously on Vice Presidential campaign trail.

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Education
12:56 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Why even the biggest charter school supporters don't love Michigan's charter school laws

When then-governor John Engler pushed for charter schools in the early 1990s, he was hoping to create a system of schools with more freedom and less regulation. But charter schools in Michigan today have to abide by almost all the same regulations as traditional schools.
Credit Chuck Grimmett/wikimedia commons

This text is adapted from a segment of a State of Opportunity radio documentary produced by Lindsey Smith and Dustin Dwyer. To hear the full documentary, click the player above. To read more about how Muskegon Heights schools made history by converting to a charter district, go here

 Let's talk about one statewide trend that’s played a significant role in the events of Muskegon Heights schools: private companies that run public charter schools. 

A recent Detroit Free Press investigation sparked a statewide conversation about why these management companies don’t have to disclose their finances to their charter school boards. The Freep found numerous examples where that lack of disclosure and oversight led to some shady deals.

Gary Miron from Western Michigan University studies charter schools, and has a reputation as a critic of Michigan’s current charter school laws. 

Miron says that original idea for charter schools was to have small, locally controlled, locally operated schools that would be free to pursue new ways of educating kids.

But that didn’t happen in Michigan.

Today, Michigan has more public charter schools being operated by for-profit companies than any other state in the country. Miron published a study last year, which found that for-profit companies run 79% of Michigan’s charters, twice the share of the next closest state. At least a half-dozen states ban for-profit charter management all together.

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Education
4:20 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Muskegon Heights schools were in trouble. Then the district made history. Twice.

Dancers from the Muskegon Heights High School Academy perform during the Festival in the Park parade earlier this summer.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

There are a lot of school districts in trouble in Michigan. 

Forty-five districts are in a deficit. Five districts are currently subject to state oversight under Michigan's emergency manager law. Two school districts completely ran out of money last year, and dissolved. 

Today, in a State of Opportunity documentary, we bring you the story of how one troubled school district survived. 

Two years ago Muskegon Heights made history by becoming the first school district in Michigan to convert entirely to a charter district and turn the operation of its schools over to a for-profit company. It had never happened before in Michigan, or, as far as we've been able to determine, anywhere else in America. 

But this spring, Muskegon Heights schools were in trouble again. Just two years into a five-year contract, its management company walked away from the district. And, once again, leaders in the community had to work with the state to find a plan to keep the district's doors open. 

This, ultimately, is the story of how they succeeded, at least for now. And what lessons we might take for the other school districts in Michigan that are facing financial problems. 

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Education
7:00 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Detroit kids go to camp to do things they can't do in the city

Detroit students get to practice archery at Camp Burt Shurly.
Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

This week on State of Opportunity, we’re going to summer camp!

I spent this past Monday with about 100 elementary school students at Camp Burt Shurly, a 250-acre campground near Chelsea. The week-long, overnight camp is run by the Detroit Public School district. Each Sunday a new set of campers arrives by bus. There's tons to do here – everything from boating and swimming to arts and crafts, nature hikes and archery. And because the camp is run by a school district, the campers have to take math and English classes, too, to help combat the "summer slide" many kids face.

Camp is paid for with Title 1 funds, so it's free for DPS students, many of whom might not be able to afford camp otherwise. 

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Families & Community
4:43 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

How does Michigan stack up when it comes to child well-being? Are you sure you want to know?

Credit User: Guillermo Ossa / Stockvault

The Annie E. Casey Foundation looks at statistics that should tell us something about how kids are faring across the country and in Michigan.  

The foundation looks at things like poverty, teen pregnancy and health insurance coverage to name a few.

If it seems like these reports are always coming out, well, that's partly true. The sheer number of indicators to analyze means that reports trickle out throughout the year. 

Update: Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yesterday, we looked at 2012's statistics for Michigan.

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Infowire
11:01 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Getting rid of a juvenile record is now easier in Michigan, but you should still probably read this

Credit Stanley Forthright / flickr

Having a juvenile record can crush the job prospects of a young person exactly the same way having a criminal record does.

Last year it got easier to set aside a juvenile record in Michigan. Setting aside your record, sometimes called expunging, means it will no longer be public and won’t show up on a background check.

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Education
11:00 am
Fri July 18, 2014

The Boggs School's message to kids is, 'I'm so glad you're here'

Credit Andrea Claire Maio

Over the last year, Zak Rosen and Andrea Claire Maio have been following students and educators at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. 

Maio and Rosen have done pieces in the series about control in the classroom, two young students at the Boggs School who are best friends, and about making school more human

For the series' last piece, Maio focused on the Principal of the Boggs School, Julia Putnam -- a cornerstone of the school.

Julia from andrea claire maio on Vimeo.

Putnam met Grace Lee Boggs, the school's namesake, when Putnam was 16 years old.

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Opinion
9:37 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Some thoughts on race and speech from Michigan Radio's Jennifer White

We've recently dedicated a fair amount of time on State of Opportunity talking about voices and bias and code switching, so I thought it'd be cool to check in with Jenn White about what it's like to be one of the few minority voices on public radio. Below are a couple excerpts from our chat.

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