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Detroit Journalism Cooperative

Room in an abandoned school in Detroit
user Freaktography / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

More than 152,000 students in metro Detroit attend class in a district or charter other than the district where they live. As minorities move into some districts, other students use the state schools-of-choice law to move to less-diverse districts.

Families say they use "choice" to move their kids to higher-performing, or safer, schools. Consciously or not, however, this law has left many districts in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County more racially segregated.

Black Lives Matter protesters Anthony Sammour, Shauna Jones, Michelle Bishop-Dawkins, Samona Dunn, and Jade Bishop in Ann Arbor.
Catherine Shaffer

The Detroit Journalism Cooperative commissioned a poll, asking people about race. It was conducted by Epic-MRA.

The sample was unique in that one-third of those surveyed lived in mostly black communities, one-third from communities which include different races, and one third from mostly white communities.

Metro Detroit racial divide is widest over police

Sep 16, 2016
Demostrators in downtown Detroit protest police-involved shootings that have killed African-Americans.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

While black and white metro Detroiters are finding common ground on racial progress, there remains a gulf, shaped by vastly different experiences, in how the two groups view police.

And nowhere are those differences laid more bare than in the divergent views on the protest movement known as Black Lives Matter.

Roughly eight-in-10 African-American residents in metro Detroit express support for Black Lives Matter, according to to a survey on racial attitudes conducted this month for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. BLM arose three years ago in reaction to the killing of unarmed blacks by police. Black support for the group (79% strongly or somewhat support BLM) is more than double that among white metro-Detroiters, 34%.

School choice, metro Detroit’s new white flight

Sep 13, 2016
Photo courtesy of Chastity Pratt Dawsey / Bridge Magazine

When the high school in Eastpointe recently welcomed the football team from Lakeview High, it was a homecoming of sorts.

That’s because nearly 700 students from Eastpointe actually attend school in Lakeview, a public school district five miles away in St. Clair Shores. As it happens, many of the students who left Eastpointe for Lakeview are white.

A newspaper clipping of Detroit's busing era.
clipping courtesy of Ray Litt / via Detroit Free Press

The U.S. Department of Education says kids at schools with mostly black or Latino students don’t get as good of an education as kids at schools with mostly white students. Generally speaking, their teachers are not as experienced and their buildings are in worse shape.

You can see that in Detroit, Flint, and other Michigan cities.

There was a major Michigan court case that could have ended segregated schools and made it possible for children to have a good education no matter where they lived.

Here's how that court case might have made a difference today.

Andrew Colom and Davide Alade
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When we talk about investment in Detroit, the likes of Dan Gilbert or Christopher Ilitch come to mind. Certainly Gilbert has led the way in buying downtown buildings, reshaping the look of downtown Detroit. 

But today, we're going to look at investment in Detroit's neighborhoods.

Andrew Colom and David Alade both gave up jobs to move to Detroit and launch an investment company called Century Partners

Their idea was to invest in Detroit's neighborhoods, and to close the wealth disparity gap by helping people invest in the rehabilitation of their neighborhoods. 

MDOT / via Twitter

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says 22,000 owners of surface parking lots and other parcels covered in impervious materials like concrete need to start pitching in for the city's $125 million annual cost for wastewater treatment.

Gary Brown is Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Members of the so-called "Homrich 9" before their initial trial.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Why has a criminal misdemeanor case involving seven Detroit protesters been stalled for nearly nine months?

Those defendants and their lawyers want to know, and in a letter sent to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway, they petition him to resolve the case “promptly.”

The defendants, part of the self-proclaimed “Homrich 9,” had briefly blocked contractors’ trucks tasked with shutting off water to Detroit homes.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroiters looking for help with their water bills are hitting some barriers, as a new aid program tries to get a handle on its funding situation, and navigate confusion between the different agencies involved.

The Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) just launched in March. It was touted as a comprehensive solution to Detroit’s chronic problem with delinquent water bills, and the subsequent service shutoffs that have hit tens of thousands of households over the past three years.

Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE: The EAA has released emails that appear to show the state and DPS agreeing to revise payments from the EAA. You can read those emails here.

Yesterday, the governor's office said this debt debate is "really an issue for the EAA and MDE to be responding to," while the Michigan Department of Education declined to comment and referred questions to the Treasury Department. 

By Bill McGraw is a reporter for Bridge Magazine, a Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner

Though their sprawling region had long wrestled with segregation, and racial violence has dominated national headlines this summer, about half of all metro Detroit residents say local race relations today are generally good, according to an exclusive new poll by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Ali Lapetina / Detroit Journalism Cooperative

Attitudes about race have been improving in southeast Michigan, but there are still wide gaps on some issues between white people and black people. Those are some of the findings in a new survey commissioned by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. 

The survey included people from mostly black communities, mixed communities, and mostly white communities in the Detroit metropolitan area.

When asked to rank the importance of race relations, black and white people ranked that issue below issues such as education and crime.

Max Nussenbaum is the CEO of Castle, a company looking to make property management simpler and more efficient
Courtesy of Generation Startup

What's the barrier between you and the life you truly want to lead?

That's one of the questions Cheryl Miller Houser explores as co-director of the new documentary film Generation Startup.

It follows some young entrepreneurs as they build startups in Detroit. They try, stumble, learn, and try again.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

 A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows the majority of Americans think race relations are getting worse. Concern about race relations spiked shortly after the reports of white police officers killing black men. Since the poll, two black men have targeted and killed police.

The 12th Street Riot began in the early hours of July 23, 1967 following a police raid on an unlicensed after-hours bar on the corner of 12th and Clairmount.
Public Domain

In the summer of 1967, the streets of Detroit shook with violence.

Civil unrest over lack of housing for blacks and open animosity with the mostly white police department boiled over in the early morning hours of July 23.

What began with a police raid on an unlicensed after-hours club grew into rioting and looting that devastated parts of the city and lasted for days.

Then-governor George Romney called in the National Guard, and President Lyndon Johnson sent in paratroopers to help quell the violence. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The first thing you notice about the street in front of Walter Hicks' home is it's peaceful.  There are lots of trees, chirping birds, and most of the lawns are mowed.  

But then you see that the houses on either side of Hicks' home are boarded up. And there are lots of boarded up homes all down the street. 

That doesn't seem to put even a little dent in his pride of ownership.

Allen Academy is unimstakably a former Catholic church.
Allen Academy / via Facebook

How do you decide if a so-called “failing” school should shut down, and is there a right way to do it?

Three Detroit charter schools shut their doors forever at the end of this school year.

One of them, Allen Academy, was one of the city’s very first charters. And its closure leaves a wake of upheaval.

"The kids are going to be better off"

The ornate, red-brick complex on Detroit’s west side is unmistakably an old Catholic church.

The Saint Theresa of Avila parish closed in the 1980s. Since 1999, it’s been Allen Academy.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Racial tensions are growing as the perceptions and evidence of racial inequality are growing.

Many of Detroit's residents see billionaires buying up downtown buildings where new retailers open shop, selling items most of Detroit's impoverished citizens cannot afford. There's a marked divide between that prosperity in downtown and the poverty in the neighborhoods.

That divide is stark in the Cass Corridor. New residents, often white, are moving in. Rents are rising. New restaurants and boutique shops are popping up. The old residents, often black, are being pushed out.

Detroit's new Red Wings arena under construction.
Rick Briggs / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Detroiters may get to choose between two, competing ballot proposals in November.

Both lay out a process for negotiating community benefits agreements with developers of large, publicly-subsidized projects.

Community benefits can range from job opportunities to health and safety protections. Such agreements are sometimes touted as a way to make sure neighborhood residents see gains from big development in their midst.

A picture of Viola Liuzzo, in the park that bears her name.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit is launching a two-year investment campaign in some neighborhood parks, starting with a park named for a murdered civil rights activist.

Viola Liuzzo was the Detroit activist and mother killed by Ku Klux Klan members near Selma, Alabama in 1965.

The northwest Detroit park that that honors her was dedicated in 1982, but had fallen into disrepair.

Now, it stands to get almost $1 million in upgrades, from new playscapes and picnic shelters to some functional landscaping.

The Atlantic posted a piece on July 8th which gets to the heart of what Michigan Radio and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative have been reporting on this year: Have things changed since the Kerner Commission's report of 1968 was published?

That presidential commission report outlined the grievances of black America and remedies to ease racial tensions.

The Atlantic explores the issue and contrasts it with the current presidential election year.

 A mural by Louis Delsarte at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site.
Flickr user yooperann/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

This week, violence and race have hit us in a way many of us have never seen.

Violence and race, though, are not new. The Detroit Journalism Cooperative has been looking at the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Some of the core issues then are some of the issues we're still struggling with today.

You've got to understand the history to really understand what's happened this week.

Flickr user TS Elliott/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Race is very difficult for people to talk about.

Many white people want to believe we’re in a post-racial society. After all, we have an African-American president.

Many black people note the inequalities that exist, the segregation that exists.

How can Americans begin to have a real discussion about race when we’ve been comfortable in our own beliefs about that subject for so long?

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

A recent legislative overhaul to Detroit Public Schools is being challenged in court.

Governor Snyder signed bills that split the old school district in two last month, avoiding a potential bankruptcy.

But members of Detroit’s elected school board say there are a number of problems with those bills.

Thomas Bleakley, the board’s attorney, says one problem is the laws are written so that they only apply to Detroit — and the state constitution is clear about the process for passing “local acts.”

DPS EM Steven Rhodes, center, takes notes at a meeting with Detroit's elected school board.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ board of education met for the final time ever on Thursday.

The board has very little to do now as part of the "old,” debt-ridden DPS.

It will be replaced by a “new” district, run by a “transition manager”—currently the district’s last emergency manager, Judge Steven Rhodes.

Gov. Snyder just signed bills setting up this bankruptcy-style restructuring just last week.

Detroit is commonly and correctly thought to be doing better than it has been in a long time. There’s a sense of hope again. The streetlights are back, and the bankruptcy’s over.

 There are still more problems than solutions.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Three Detroit charter schools are closing and two are merging this year, adding to the school turnover and churn families in that city are seeing.

One of the larger charters, Allen Academy, is being shut down because of poor academic performance.

“The test scores over the last several years, they’ve been outperformed by the resident district, Detroit Public Schools,” says Ron Rizzo, director of the Charter Schools Office at Ferris State University, which authorized Allen Academy.

The latest re-invention of public schools in Detroit is underway with the state trying yet again to overhaul the district facing huge financial and academic difficulties.

But it’s still too early to declare victory.

This new plan out of Lansing is without the support of legislative Democrats, the Detroit delegation and Mayor Mike Duggan. But it does return the Detroit public schools back to the control of a locally elected school board. This is coming after many state appointed emergency managers over seven years have tried but failed to turn around the district.

DPS website

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a $617 million bailout of the Detroit Public Schools – which he says represents a fresh start for the financially and academically struggling district.

The plan creates a new debt-free Detroit school district, which will focus on educating the district’s 46,000 students while the old district pays down the old debt. 

The bills signed by the governor also return control of the district to a locally elected school board following seven years of state control that saw it sink deeper into debt.

Mendez currently works with Minute Men Staffing Services, a staffing agency located in Southwest Detroit. She says the work environment treated her well, but she felt that as a woman she didn’t have as many advantages as a man would.
DJC

“Let’s go take my daddy out of that place. I miss him why is he there?”

These were the words of a three-year-old Dana whose father had just been detained to be deported.

The mother, Mireya, says the little girl cried every night, saying she wanted her father home and was confused as to why he was in there in the first place, demanding that he is brought home to her. The mother says on one visit to the detention facility, the daughter asked her to break the glass, unbeknown to the child that she would probably never see her father free any time soon.

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