Dustin Dwyer


Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.

In 2010, Dustin left journalism to be a stay-at-home dad. Now that his daughter Irene is turning two, he's happy to be back at Michigan Radio, where there are far fewer temper-tantrums. 

Ways to Connect

leeroy09481 / flickr

Michigan is beginning to reach a state of normalcy after the worst economic shock in a generation. Last week, the state announced the unemployment rate held steady at 5%, which matches the national average. Which is to say, Michigan is no longer a worse-than-average place for people trying to find work. 

And that's good news, because a new economic paper spells out just how bad a job loss can be not just for the adults going through it, but for their kids too. 

flickr/michigancommunities / Michigan Municipal League

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder took some time yesterday to clarify his stance on the future of Syrian refugees in Michigan.

Snyder, who two years ago declared himself "probably the most pro-immigration governor in the country," now says he doesn't want to completely stop Syrian refugees from arriving in Michigan. He just wants a pause, so that the federal Department of Homeland Security can review its screening procedures to ensure none of the refugees (who already undergo intensive screening) are terrorists. 

"Most people are not terrorists," the governor said, according to a report from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta. "This is just to be prudent, to make sure some terrorist element is not entering our country." 

U.S. House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee

What you see above is a chart of all 80 federal programs that provide help to low-income families. This chart was prepared by the leaders of the U.S. House committee that oversees federal social service programs. Republican leaders on the committee put it together for a hearing a couple days ago.


Kent County Sherriff Deputy Patrick Stewart was on his lunch break last week. Lunch, in his case, was at 12:30 in the morning. He stopped at a fire house in the town of Cutlerville, on the outskirts of Grand Rapids.

"And I heard a very loud knocking, pounding on the door," he says. "When I got to the door, there was a frantic man there saying that he had somebody – his buddy – in the back of his vehicle, and had ODed on heroin, and was no longer breathing."

Stewart called for an ambulance, and started chest compressions on the man. When the ambulance arrived, the paramedic who came to help is actually Stewart’s wife, Amanda. She gave the man a drug called Naloxone. It works as basically an antidote to a heroin overdose, reviving someone who’s on the verge of slipping away. Together, the newly married husband and wife saved the man’s life.

That part of the story is remarkable.

Everything else about it has become far too common, says Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Young.


Teachers, you have our sympathy.

The week of Halloween is a difficult time week to keep kids focused on learning. And this week, many teachers told us, there was one extra element making their students act a little crazy: the full moon.


A couple years ago, I was at Congress Elementary school in Grand Rapids. I spent a lot of time there, so I knew the principal Bridget Cheney and the teachers fairly well. At least, I thought I did.

So, one day, it seemed things were a bit off in the building. The kids were just – let’s say squirrelly.

I was talking to Cheney about that. And she said one of the reasons kids were acting weird: a full moon was coming.

I thought it was a joke.


Parents: you’ll find a note soon in your child’s backpack. Or maybe you’ll get a phone call.  A gentle reminder from your child’s teacher that it’s time for parent-teacher conferences.

And, you’ll make the time to sit down some evening to talk. It’s just one of the ways schools and teachers try to keep parents involved in children’s education.

But some parents have a harder time staying involved than others. Not because they don’t want to, or because they don’t care. Often, their work schedule just doesn’t allow it.

flickr/teegardin, www.seniorliving.org

I came across a paradox today. It came in the form of poll results, conducted by Gallup. Specifically, it came from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™ ("The World's Largest and Preeminent Source for Well Being Data"). 

For the poll, Gallup asks thousands of people all across the world how they feel about five categories of "well-being." The categories are purpose, social, financial, community and physical. The poll results are then translated into an overall well-being score, which can be used to compare different communities, states and countries. 

And, yeah, Michigan doesn't rank too well. 

Dustin Dwyer

Shortly before 10 a.m., the tall strangers in business suits arrive for their tour.

"Morning," says Denise Brown, who is not a stranger, and not in a suit. She leads this early childhood program at Campus Elementary in Grand Rapids. She's today's tour guide for the tall strangers in suits.

"Wow, I’m overwhelmed with 20 of you," Brown says. 

Two years ago, the state of Michigan made a major new investment in preschool. Since then, state funding to help four year olds attend preschool has more than doubled. About 14,000 more children now have access to preschool.

Many of the tall strangers on this tour were deeply involved in making that investment happen. But they're not done yet. And today's event is, ultimately, about keeping the movement going. 


Stop me if you've heard this one: Inequality is on the rise in the U.S. 

Most Americans know this. The rich are getting richer. The poor are just kind of stuck. Figuring out what to do about it is the problem. One idea lots of people seem to like is to just force rich people to pay higher taxes. A Gallup poll released earlier this year found that 52% of Americans now believe the government should redistribute wealth by heavily taxing the rich. 

Even some politicians have come around on the idea. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have talked on the campaign trail about their desires to raise taxes on the rich.

But that doesn't mean it'll happen. Historically, democratic societies have rarely imposed massive taxes on the rich. And when they did, it was almost always in the middle of a mass war. 

flickr user biologycorner

We’ve talked a lot on State of Opportunity about racial achievement gaps - how the average test score for black, Hispanic or Native American kids isn’t as high as the average test score for a white or Asian student.

Now we want to talk about what the real world implications of those gaps might be. We tried to tackle the question by asking: What would the world look like if racial achievement gaps suddenly disappeared?

"There are two possible answers to that question," says Derek Neal, an economist at the University of Chicago. His research is focused on black-white inequality, and he’s studied how test scores play into that.