Kate Wells

Reporter/Producer

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter covering general news for Michigan Radio. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Weekend Edition, as well as on WNYC, Harvest Public Media, KUT (Austin Public Radio) and in the Texas Tribune.

Kate got her start as an intern with New Hampshire Public Radio before heading out to the Midwest, where she covered the presidential caucuses for Iowa Public Radio and won a regional Edward R. Murrow award for investigative journalism. She joined Michigan Radio in 2012. Kate enjoys hiking, the Muppets, and cake in all forms.   

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It was a tense, emotional afternoon at the Michigan Board of Education.

In the two months since the board put out a draft proposal for how schools could choose to support LGBT kids, it’s become a major controversy.

Quinn Dombrowski/ Flickr

In the two months since the Michigan Board of Education put together its draft guidelines for how schools can support LGBT youth, the purely-optional policy suggestions have become a statewide battleground.

On one side, you’ve got advocates who feel the proposals would give schools a much-needed model for basic human decency towards students, especially transgender youth.

https://www.svsu.edu/visit/

“Your entire life is just one big lie,” Charin Davenport’s former supervisor allegedly told her, according to a lawsuit filed today.  

“You disgust me!" the lawsuit alleges Davenport was told, when she announced to her supervisor that she planned to dress and present as a woman. "I can’t even stand to look at you! This is not about your so-called ‘gender identity.’ This is about you being a liar.”

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  At Bedford Public Schools in Monroe County, transgender students are only allowed to use the gender-neutral bathrooms.

That's even if they've asked to use the bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state is offering Flint and Genesee County officials 100-thousand dollar grants, to help cover some of their emergency response costs from the water crisis.

But the Genesee County sheriff says that's not nearly enough.  

"Oh, heck no," says Sheriff Robert Pickell, who says he’s also the Homeland Security Emergency Manager for the county. “I mean, I understand that the Governor is trying to help. But that’s an unrealistic number, $100,000. I’ve already got 40 or $50,000 in dried food [costs.] And every day, the costs add up.”

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Peggy Toms can't figure out why so many jurors just aren't showing up lately, but she knows it's getting worse.

The Livingston County Circuit Court Administrative Coordinator says she doesn't think the court's ever had to let an accused person go free because it couldn't find enough jurors, but - “You’d never want it to get to that point,” Toms says of all the no-shows.

Tom Izzo talking to a referee
MGoBlog on Flickr / Flickr

Maybe this will help make up for this year's stunning upset. 

Long-time coach and MSU legend, Tom Izzo, will be named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year. And he's in good company: Allen Iverson and Shaquille O'Neal are also in this year's class of 10.

In his 21 years as head coach, Izzo has taken the Spartans to 19 consecutive NCAA tournaments. That's a Big Ten record, according to MSU. 

And his teams have made it to the Final Four seven times, winning the NCAA National Championship in 2000. 

Shayan Sanyal / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

That’s what a case coming before the Michigan Supreme Court this week will decide.

The defendant here is Lorinda Swain, who was convicted in 2002 for sexually abusing her adopted son.

But her son later told the court he’d lied about the abuse. After more than seven years in prison, Swain was let out on bond when a judge ruled she deserved a new trial.

But the Court of Appeals overruled that decision two separate times. Now the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case.

Yet  there’s a lot more at stake here than just whether one woman will get a new trial.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

It may soon get a little easier for Detroit parents to figure out which schools are the right fit for their kids.

Navigating the maze of options – and enrollment deadlines, and application processes – from Detroit Public Schools, the Education Achievement Authority, and charter schools can feel overwhelming for some families.

Starting Friday, a new program called Enroll Detroit will offer parents a common application and enrollment system.

Tony Webster

  State Senator Tom Casperson, a Republican from the UP, says he’ll introduce a bill requiring Michigan students to “only use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth” sex, unless they have “written consent from a parent or guardian.”

Even then, transgender student would be barred from locker rooms or bathrooms “of the opposite sex … if those facilities are in use or could be in use,” according to a release from Casperson’s office Tuesday.

Michigan's school system could get an overhaul. 

Governor Snyder's creating a new team to try to figure out how to make this state's schools more like the top-performing states.

The 25 people who’ll staff the “Governor’s 21st Century Education Commission” haven’t been appointed yet, but they’ve already got a big task: figure out what the best school systems do right, and what’s keeping Michigan from being more like them – and then, by November 30, tell the governor what to change.

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 A $10.5 million settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit involving a group of Michigan pain clinics and a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.

The outbreak started when a Massachusetts pharmacy, the New England Compounding Center, shipped out contaminated steroid shots to pain clinics across the country – including a group called the Michigan Pain Specialists, which injected the shots into hundreds of patients.

More than 260 people in Michigan were sickened, and 19 people in this state died.

LGBT flag
antiochla.edu / Antioch University

By Friday afternoon, more than 3,000 people had submitted online comments about the State Board of Education’s new recommendations for how schools should support LGBT kids.

These are just draft recommendations, and they’re purely optional.

Here’s a sampling of what the board is suggesting schools do to create a safer space for transgender students:

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The University of Michigan is updating its policies on student sexual assault and misconduct, following a campus survey last summer in which 20% of female students say they had a "nonconsensual sexual experience."

Over the last year, University officials say they've been hearing from students about the school’s policies – what they’re concerned about, which rules confuse them, and what changes they’d like to see.

Here's what the University is saying so far about the changes, which will be released April 6th and go into effect in July.

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A $50 million emergency spending bill to keep Detroit Public Schools open through the rest of this school year has cleared the state House.

The district’s emergency manager says without an immediate infusion of cash, DPS probably won’t be able to pay teachers and staff after April 8th.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where Republican Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof says he intends  to hold a vote on this $50 million bill, or a larger DPS bailout, sometime next week.

Kate Wells

Firefighters are one step closer to getting the cancer coverage they were promised by the state more than a year ago.

The senate approved $1 million today for the First Responder's Fund, which is supposed to cover firefighters who get job-related cancer.

Lawmakers created that fund in 2014 but never put any money in it.

Meanwhile, firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer and thinking they’re covered – only to find out they’re not, when their worker’s comp claims are denied.  

opioids, prescription drugs, vicodin
Sharyn Morrow/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan health centers are getting $3.4 million from the federal government to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic.

It’s part of a new federal push to get more people into treatment.

"All across rural and urban American, the opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues we face," says Kathleend Falk, regional director of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Humans Services. "We lose far too many of our fellow Americans to drug overdoses.”

Falk says in the six  Great Lake states alone, more than 8,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2014. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint has just about a month left until its federal emergency declaration expires.

That declaration lets the state buy bottled water, filters and testing kits through the federal government -- with the feds covering 75% of the cost.

The federal "emergency" declaration is really designed for short-term crises, like right before a hurricane strikes, when a city has to stock up on emergency generators or bottled water.  

Still, the state is asking for an extension of this emergency declaration for Flint through mid-August.

Sign in Flint, Michigan.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

The state's holding focus groups in Flint, trying to figure out whether people are getting the information they need about the water crisis.

And so far, the answer is pretty clear: they’re not.

Harvey Hollins is running the state's response efforts in Flint. And he says the first focus group (which was held this week) was pretty unsettling.  

He says people suggested the state create a help line to call with questions about the water and where to get filters – even though 211 has already been offering that kind of information.

flickr user FatMandy / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A suburban Detroit judge accused of sending poor people to jail if they couldn't immediately pay court fines has agreed to end that practice.

Courts aren't allowed to force indigent people to choose between paying a fine they can't afford, or going to jail – a practice that’s called “pay or stay.”

But the ACLU of Michigan says Eastpointe Judge Carl Gerds III was routinely doing just that.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

More than 200 firefighters rallied at the state Capitol in Lansing today.

They're pushing hard to finally win the cancer coverage the state promised them more than a year ago.

That’s when the Legislature created a first responder’s fund for firefighters who get job-related cancer – except, lawmakers never put any money in that fund.

Since then, the state union says at least 8 firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer, one of whom died last month.  

Rocky2016.com

If you’re voting in Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, your choices on the ballot are Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley (who suspended his campaign) … and a guy named Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente.

So, who is that last guy?

De La Fuente, according to his campaign website, is a San Diego businessman and car dealership owner.

Michigan State University

The person in charge of charting a new academic course for the Detroit Public Schools is a familiar face in the district.

Former federal judge Steven Rhodes, the district’s emergency manager, has named Alycia Meriweather as the new interim superintendent

Merriweather is a lifelong Detroiter and DPS graduate who “started with the Detroit Public Schools as a four-year-old with Head Start,” Meriweather said during a sometimes-emotional press conference Monday.

clarkmaxwell

Firefighters will rally in Lansing on Tuesday as they push for cancer coverage that lawmakers promised them more than a year ago – but never delivered.

In 2014, the legislature created a worker’s comp fund for firefighters who get job-related cancer. Governor Snyder signed it in January 2015, noting there was still no funding designated for the fund, and instructing lawmakers to find money for it.

But more than a year later, there’s still no money. So firefighters are getting cancer, thinking they’re covered, only to find out they’re not.

Voting sign
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It's finally our turn, Michigan! All the debates. All the months and months of nonstop news coverage. Now, we get to vote. 

So here's 3 things you need to know about how to vote on Tuesday, and what to expect once you get there.

1) You can vote for Democrats or Republicans, regardless of your own party. 

Technically Michigan has a "closed" primary, but you can vote for either a Republican or a Democratic nominee, regardless of your own party affiliation.  

Tim Wang / Flickr

DTE Energy wants to raise electricity rates for residential customers, and it's getting push back from the state's Attorney General.

Utilities companies can ask for rate hikes once every year, but that doesn't mean they'll get them. The Public Service commission has to give the ok.

And Attorney General Bill Schuette says DTE's latest request is unreasonable. It would raise rates about $7 a year for the average residential customer – but Schuette points out, DTE just got a rate hike approved last year.

Eastern Michigan University
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Fred Klein says he couldn’t wait to call Eastern Michigan University and tell them the good news.

After two years, the Ann Arbor teacher’s union was ending their boycott on taking EMU student teachers into their classrooms.

That ban was intended to protest EMU’s regents, who authorized the charter of the Education Achievement Authority, a controversial school district in Detroit.

Klein, the vice president of the Ann Arbor teacher’s union, says the student teacher boycott was always a tough call.

clarkmaxwell

Firefighters could finally get the cancer coverage they were promised by state lawmakers more than a year ago.

The Legislature created a worker’s comp fund for firefighters in 2014. Governor Snyder signed the law in January 2015, telling lawmakers to find money for the fund.

More than half of all states already offer some kind of cancer coverage to firefighters, who have elevated risks for several cancers. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

You know when you've got $20 to spend on groceries, and you need paper towels?

So you head over to that aisle and, of course, it's cheaper per-roll to to buy the huge bulk package. But you just don't have $17 to drop on paper towels this week. That $20 needs to buy food, too.

So you buy the 4-package roll, or if you're really strapped, the single roll.

That's a common - and surprisingly costly - cycle poor people get trapped in, according to researchers from the University of Michigan.

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High-achieving kids in Ypsilanti and Southfield: The University of Michigan wants you.

The school is trying to boost its diversity on a campus where just roughly 4% of the student body is African-American, and where many in the black student body say they often feel out of place or even downright unwelcome.

With a state ban on affirmative action at public universities, Michigan is trying something new: it’s called Wolverine Pathways, and it’s set up as a dedicated pipeline for high-performing kids in 7th and 10th grade from these two cities.

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