Detroit Students Have a Constitutional Right to Literacy, Court Rules
From The New York Times, April 27, 2020. Dana Goldstein.
For the first time in decades, a federal court has declared that American public school students have a constitutional right to an adequate education.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the state of Michigan has been so negligent toward the educational needs of Detroit students that children have been “deprived of access to literacy” — the foundational skill that allows Americans to function as citizens — in violation of the 14th Amendment.
The case, known as Gary B. v. Whitmer, is one of a group of lawsuits arguing that conditions such as segregation and unequal per-pupil funding violate children’s rights. Some of the cases, including the Detroit lawsuit, challenge a 47-year-old Supreme Court ruling that equality in education is not constitutionally guaranteed.
It is not yet clear what remedies will be considered in the Detroit case. In February, another lawsuit over the right to literacy, brought in California state court, led to a relatively modest settlement of $53 million, which the state will distribute to 75 low-performing elementary schools. And now, with the devastating economic impact of the pandemic, it may be hard to find much new money for public education.