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State of Opportunity
State of Opportunity is a multi-year reporting and community engagement project focused on how poverty affects children in Michigan. It will shed light on the challenges of growing up or raising kids while struggling to pay the bills and highlight the successes and the resilience of these families and the people who serve them.
Friday, July 25, 2014 12:56pm
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.
Thursday, July 24, 2014 4:20pm
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.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 7:00am
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.
Monday, July 21, 2014 4:43pm
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.
Friday, July 18, 2014 11:01am
Having a juvenile record can crush the job prospects of a young person exactly the same way having a criminal record does.