Jennifer Guerra

Reporter/Producer

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station. Before joining Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.

Her stories and documentaries have won numerous regional and national awards (including Clarion, PRNDI and Edward R. Murrow awards) and her work has aired on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace and Studio 360.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Michigan and received her master's degree in broadcast journalism from Fordham University. When she's not on the radio, she and her husband are trying to keep up with their adorable and energetic toddler.

Ways to Connect

Tires litter the lawn in front of an abandoned house on Detroit's west side
Andrea Claire Maio / Apiary Projects

I went to a workshop last month called "Why in the D?," which was put on by students at Cody’s Academy of Public Leadership. The point of the day was not to talk about schools; it was to talk about something much closer to home: where they live and the outsize role their neighborhoods have on their lives. 

Josh Andrew teaches English at Cody's Medicine and Community Health in Detroit
Andrea Claire Maio / Apiary Projects

There’s now a financial rescue plan for Detroit public schools. But the district's problems go way beyond money: Test scores are among the worst in the nation; students are leaving; teachers are leaving.

 

Reginald Franklyn (r) interviews his princicpal at Cody Academy of Public Leadership.
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Detroit public school district is in desperate need of a lifeline. It’s drowning in debt, and Lansing can’t agree on what a bailout should look like. Meanwhile, many teachers fled to other districts mid-year when they heard they might not get paid.

 

The teacher shortage has taken a toll on Cody Academy of Public Leadership, a high school on Detroit’s west side. It lost four teachers during the school year, and it can almost never find subs when it needs them.

Jalin, Valencia and Irmitha Pitchford in front of their new home in Wyandotte.
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

For a long time, parents were seen as the key factor to a child’s success, and longtime State of Opportunity listeners know there are a number of things parents can do to help their children get ahead. But even the most well-intentioned parent will tell you: It's hard to parent when you live in a neighborhood that's not safe.

 

Song of the Sea on the "big screen" at the Play House
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

It’s been decades since Mr. Rogers invited us to be his neighbor.

 

 

All were welcomed – rich, poor, black, white, immigrant. But today the reality is neighborhoods are much more segregated and homogenous. There are, of course, exceptions. As part of our year-long look at neighborhoods and their impacts, we'll be spending time in a diverse neighborhood on the border of Hamtramck and Detroit that's actively working to integrate.

 

 


Nick Azzaro / Ypsilanti Community Schools

This story is part of the NPR reporting project “School Money,” a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but it’s worth repeating: we have no idea – as a state – how much it costs to adequately educate a child in Michigan. Most states have done so-called “adequacy studies,” but Michigan hasn’t. Until now. We’ve got a new school funding study underway. But before we get to the nitty gritty details about what goes into the study, let's ask some students how much they think it costs to educate one child per year in Michigan. 

user Phil Roeder / flickr

If you've been following State of Opportunity for a while, you've probably heard us say this a few times now: our state constitution legally promises all Michigan kids  a "free" education, but it says nothing about that education being "adequate" or "equitable."

Here's the exact language:

Sec. 2. The Legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. went way up after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. And the backlash against American Muslims is on the rise again after the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations notes on its website "that it has received more reports about acts of Islamophobic discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslim) and Islamic institutions in the past week-and-a-half than during any other limited period of time since the 9/11 terror attacks."

Not surprisingly, the increased backlash is causing a lot of stress for Muslims in general and for Muslim religious leaders in particular. 

The middle class in America is no longer the majority, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. Not only is the middle class shrinking, it's also falling behind financially. "In 2014, the median income of these households was 4% less than in 2000. Moreover, because of the housing market crisis and the Great Recession of 2007-09, their median wealth (assets minus debts) fell by 28% from 2001 to 2013." Yikes.

Michigan Radio

We're going to go out on a limb here and say most parents want to know how their child's school measures up in terms of standardized test scores, graduation rates, demographics and so on. 

Another big question parents ask when looking at a school: 

“How many kids are in a typical classroom?”

When you hear people talk about ineffective school systems, you’ll often hear something like, “there aren’t enough desks or books,” or “there are more than 30 kids in that classroom.”

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