Literacy lawsuit draws questions, call for investment
The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee the right to education, and the nation’s highest court so far has not weighed in.
But U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy III in Detroit is being asked to open the door to the concept of a constitutional right to literacy — which could one day put the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time.
Legal and academic opinions differ over the central argument in the case of seven Detroit schoolchildren who are suing the state.
The lawsuit, filed last month, alleges decades of state disinvestment in the city’s schools have denied schoolchildren access to the most basic building block of education: literacy.
U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr. says Michigan has not properly invested in Detroit’s schoolchildren but declined to tell The Detroit News whether he thinks literacy is a federal right.
“It is clear that the state over the years has not made any of the kind of investment and commitment to the kids of Detroit that’s needed,” said King, who was in Detroit on Friday. “And that is our responsibility across levels of government — local, state and federal. And the future of our economy and our democracy depend on that.”
King noted federal law is designed to focus federal resources on closing those gaps between urban students and others.
“We’ve got to do a much better job as adults to ensure that every child in Detroit is getting that kind of quality education that they should,” he said.
Richard Primus, a constitutional law expert and professor at University of Michigan Law School, said the federal case in Detroit has a chance to change the law and the Literacy lawsuit draws questions, call for investment: