Michigan judge rules kids don’t have a fundamental right to literacy
A Michigan judge ruled last week that children do not have a fundamental right to learn how to read and write.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Public Counsel, the nation’s largest public interest law firm, on behalf of Detroit students that sought to hold state authorities, including Gov. Rick Snyder (R), accountable for what plaintiffs alleged were systemic failures depriving children of their right to literacy, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“I’m shocked,” said Ivy Bailey, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the newspaper reported. “The message that it sends is that education is not important. And it sends the message that we don’t care if you’re literate or not.”
The suit also sought fixes to crumbling schools that, among other measures, Detroit Public Schools Community District officials reportedly said would amount to more than $500 million.
The state had argued for dismissing the suit, with the city’s lawyers saying local officials are “all too familiar with illiteracy’s far reaching effects.”
“Widespread illiteracy has hampered the City’s efforts to connect Detroiters with good-paying jobs; to fill vacancies on its police force, and to grow its tax base,” said lawyers for the city. “Illiteracy, moreover, has greatly exacerbated the effects of intergenerational poverty in Detroit.”
U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III acknowledged the importance of literacy in his ruling on Friday in a 40-page opinion.
“Plainly, literacy — and the opportunity to obtain it — is of incalculable importance,” Murphy wrote. “As plaintiffs point out, voting, participating meaningfully in civic life, and accessing justice require some measure of literacy.”
But he concluded that those points “do not necessarily make access to literacy a fundamental right,” adding that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the past that the importance of service “does not determine whether it must be regarded as fundamental.”