Michigan settles suit after landmark "right to read" ruling | Michigan Radio
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Michigan settles suit after landmark "right to read" ruling

May 14, 2020

Credit Photo by Robyn Budlender on Unsplash

The state of Michigan has announced a settlement in a lawsuit over poor reading skills that was filed on behalf of Detroit schoolchildren, weeks after a federal appeals court issued a groundbreaking decision recognizing a constitutional right to education and literacy.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the plaintiffs announced the agreement early Thursday. They say the settlement "will help secure the right of access to literacy for students in Detroit who faced obstacles they never should have faced."

The Republican-led Legislature recently asked the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to set aside the 2-1 ruling.

The settlement announced today between the state and the Detroit children who charged in a lawsuit that the state had failed to fulfill their fundamental right to a basic education provides a small amount of money to the students and Detroit schools and possibly considerably more for the district if the Legislature agrees.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the plaintiffs in the Gary B. case announced the broad outlines of the settlement:

  • The state will provide $280,000 to be shared among the seven student-plaintiffs to help them access a high-quality literacy program or otherwise further their education. The funds will be held in trust by the Detroit Public Schools Foundation for the students.
  • The state will provide $2.72 million to the Detroit Public Schools Community District to fund literacy programming.
  • Whitmer will ask the Michigan Department of Education to advise school districts throughout the state on how to use evidence-based literacy strategies and programs to improve literacy with, a statement said, "special attention to reducing class, racial and ethnic disparities."
  • Two Detroit-based task forces, one outside the government, and another within the government, will be set up with one conducting yearly evaluations on literacy in Detroit and making policy recommendations to the governor and the other focusing on the stability and quality of the overall educational system in Detroit.
  • Whitmer "agrees to propose legislation during her first term," the statement says, to provide DPSCD with at least $94.4 million for funding literacy-related programs and initiatives. This, however, would require legislative approval.

Republicans in the Legislature earlier this week filed a motion to intervene in the case in a bid to defend the state's position and prevent a settlement.