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State argues literacy not a constitutional right

Nov 21, 2016

 


On September 13, seven Detroit school children sued state officials.

The suit was filed in federal court in Detroit. It claims that literacy is a fundamental right, and that the state has denied that right by fundamentally excluding Detroit students from the state’s educational system.

Now attorneys for Governor Rick Snyder have fired back. They say there’s no fundamental right to literacy, and this suit is “an attempt to destroy the American tradition of democratic control of schools.”

Mark Rosenbaum is the director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project.

Public Counsel is the Los Angeles law firm representing the Detroit students. It claims to be the nation’s largest pro-bono law firm.

"Do any of these attorneys, does Governor Snyder, would any of them send their children to schools like we're talking about?" Rosenbaum asked.

"The United States Supreme Court has already recognized that the stigma of illiteracy is such that children cannot function in our society, they cannot participate in our basic democratic institutions, they can't vote, they can't follow jury instructions," he said. "For the governor and the state of Michigan to say there is no right involved here is to essentially say to these kids, 'You are disposable kids, you are throwaway kids. Whether you get educated or not is not our concern.'"

"Public schools were to be the great equalizer," he said. "They were to say no matter where you come from economically, no matter your race, everyone was to get a fair shot."

Governor Snyder said he's been working on state education his entire time in office.

"We've invested a lot of money in the state level, but we always want to get better outcomes," Snyder said. "So that's something that I've been focusing on ever since I've been governor is improving education in Michigan.  We've made a lot of advances and there's more work to be done."

Rosenbaum talks more about the suit and what's to come in our conversation above.

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